Updated: June 3, 2022 2:03:01 am
Two weeks after quitting the Congress, Patidar leader Hardik Patel formally joined the BJP on Thursday, saying it was his duty to become a “soldier” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to work for “national interest”.
“We need the same party we have brought to power for the last 27 years in the state. If there is any party that can do good for the country and state, it is the BJP,” said Hardik, who until recently was one of the harshest critics of the party and the Prime Minister.
He changed his tone after publicly airing a number of grievances against the Congress last month. He had joined the party in 2019 and was made the working president of its state unit in July 2020. He resigned from it on May 18.
On Thursday, Gujarat BJP chief C R Paatil and former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel welcomed him at the party’s state headquarters in Gandhinagar.
At the programme, Hardik, 28, talked up his family’s association with the BJP, saying the party was always his home. He also downplayed his past utterances against the party, and against the Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah — even likening the Patidar reservation demand to a “son asking his father for a chocolate”.
“Like other leaders, I won’t say that I am doing ghar wapsi. We were already in this home (BJP). When the first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel, was fighting elections from Mandal, my late father (Bharat Patel) would campaign for her in his Commando jeep. We have always tried to do as much help as possible since the beginning (1990s),” he said.
राष्ट्रहित, प्रदेशहित, जनहित एवं समाज हित की भावनाओं के साथ आज से नए अध्याय का प्रारंभ करने जा रहा हूँ। भारत के यशस्वी प्रधानमंत्री श्री नरेन्द्र भाई मोदी जी के नेतृत्व में चल रहे राष्ट्र सेवा के भगीरथ कार्य में छोटा सा सिपाही बनकर काम करूँगा।
The 2015 quota agitation led by Hardik, which catapulted him to fame, is widely considered to be the reason behind the ouster of the Anandiben government.
Several BJP members have anonymously expressed their discontent over the Patidar leader’s induction.
“Today when Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi, Home Minister Amitbhai (Shah), J P Nadda ji, Gujarat CM Bhupendrabhai Patel and C R Paatil saheb are doing the mammoth task of national interest, I felt it my duty to be a soldier of Narendrabhai…I will try to be a small squirrel for the Ram Setu,” Hardik said.
Many, including some former colleagues, have criticised Hardik’s move and questioned his political future.
In this context, Hardik said: “For the past 10 days, I have been watching numerous discussions on my fate after joining the BJP. The matter is that of rashtra hit (national interest). The need is not that of becoming a king or a commander, but a soldier. Those who have joined BJP today have done so in the role of a soldier.”
Asked about how he felt joining a party against which he once fought tooth and nail, Hardik said: “It is natural that a son of a family would make some demand before his father. It is natural that a son would not go to the neighbour with his demand. Similarly, people of the state who have elected the government would have some expectation from the government. It was the same government which later gave 10 per cent reservation (for economically weaker sections), Rs 1,000 crore Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavlamban Yojana, and Binanamat Ayog.”
In a reply to another question, Hardik refused to apologise for the agitation that saw large-scale violence and caused damage to public property. “It was done in the interest of the people.”
During the quota agitation, Hardik was known for his strong language towards the BJP leadership, specifically Modi and Shah. Asked to explain some of his utterances, Hardik said: “We were fighting the agitation in an aggressive manner. But when Article 370 was abrogated, we thanked Amitbhai saying that unification of the country was necessary. The language of the agitation was different.”
In his resignation letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Hardik had severely criticised the party leadership, claiming that it “only played the role of a roadblock” over certain key issues in the country and was “merely reduced to opposing everything”.
On Thursday, he said: “Even when I was in Congress, despite being an office bearer of Congress, I supported the work of PM Narendra Modi related to abrogation of Article 370, strong decision of constructing Ram Mandir, GST or NRC.”
Hardik was facing around 32 criminal cases registered during the quota agitation. Two of them were that of sedition. He has also been convicted by a trial court in Mehsana. The Supreme Court recently stayed this conviction.
Recently, the Gujarat government, too, withdrew some cases against Hardik.
Asked about the sedition cases registered against him by the BJP government, Hardik said he is a patriot and does not need to give any evidence for this. About the pending criminal cases, he refused to comment, saying they are sub-judice.
One of the major demands of the Patidar community related to the agitation is government jobs for the family members of the 14 persons who were killed during the protests.
Hardik said that he along with three other friends would make efforts to provide alternative jobs to the family members of those people within two months. He expressed confidence that the state government will also make all attempts to help those families.
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Before his induction on Thursday, Hardik had performed a “pooja” for Goddess Durga at his residence — and one for the cow at the SGVP Gurukul in Ahmedabad.
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