Senior members have been lobbying for top posts in the Gujarat Congress after its incumbent president Amit Chavda and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Paresh Dhanani resigned following the party’s debacle in the local body elections earlier this year. However, party working president Hardik Patel continues to feel “isolated” even a year after his appointment.
Patel says that no leader from the Gujarat Congress visited his house after the demise of his father due to Covid-19 in May this year.
“I received condolence calls from senior leaders of my party and other parties across Gujarat and the country. But no senior Congress leader from Gujarat visited my house as a gesture after my father’s demise,” Patel told The Indian Express.
Patel, who joined the Congress in 2019, was appointed working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) in July 2020. In an interview to The Indian Express in February this year, Patel had said that he felt some party leaders “might be wanting to pull me down” and that the PCC had not organised a single public meeting for him during the local elections earlier this year.
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When asked whether he would like some responsibility ahead of the Assembly elections in 2022, Patel says, “Nothing better than that.”
“If five fingers of a hand are together, then the fist is complete. In the same manner, the party will be strengthened with my presence. I don’t need any position, post or power, I just need work so that I can continue to serve my people,” said Patel.
When asked whether he feels more alienated in the party, Patel said, “See, my family is huge and like every family, there are minor arguments and disagreements (nok jhok). I don’t wish for any post or seat… If the party wants me to walk for 250 kilometres, I would happily do that. At present, I am focusing on rural areas and my team intends to address the issues of unemployment and farming… During the Covid pandemic, there were minimum 10-15 deaths in each village and there are over 16,000 villages in Gujarat. You can take a guess about the mammoth destruction…”
Covid also claimed Gujarat AICC incharge Rajeev Satav and the national leadership is expected to fill that void before it considers a local chief.
After the Patidar andolan, Patel is also facing police cases, including two sedition cases filed against him in 2015. While the Congress benefited in the 2017 assembly polls from the Patidar andolan, it received a major setback in 2021 local body polls where Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 27 seats in Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) elections, replacing Congress as the opposition party after a major section of Patidar voters had chosen AAP.
“This is a ploy of the BJP… whenever they are under pressure…, whenever they see the opposition united, they try to spread rumours to create a rift,” said Patel.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Congress leaders scramble to defend against Patel’s grievances, calling him “part of their family”.
“It is the culture of Congress party to stand with people in their time of grief. I am sure a collective condolence message was sent by the GPCC (to Patel). He is our colleague and part of our family. If there is some miscommunication, it will be rectified,” said Manish Doshi, GPCC spokesperson.
Among the contenders for PCC chief are former GPCC chief Arjun Modhwadia, former Union minister Bharatsinh Solanki and Rajya Sabha MP Shaktisinh Gohil. “We have no problem even if Hardik is made PCC chief”, said a senior leader in the party who feels the party need to “consolidate the Patidar votes” with AAP in the fray and its victory in the local polls in Surat powered by the community.
“People join Congress from different sections of the society and all of us have a mind of our own. However, when we join the party, it is a collective decision… focus is to remain united as one and work for the people. We recently had a meeting with senior Congress leaders, including Hardik, where everyone was allowed to speak. This is the democratic structure of our party, which is lacking in the BJP where nobody is allowed to speak,” said Chavda, interim president, GPCC.
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