Updated: April 23, 2022 8:00:10 am
Days after criticising the functioning of the Gujarat Congress, Hardik Patel set off more tremors within the party Friday, suggesting that his options were “open”, and lavishly praising the ruling BJP for its “terrific decision-taking” leadership. At the same time, he denied any plans to quit the Congress.
In an interview given to Divya Bhaskar newspaper, that appeared on Friday, Patel praised the BJP over decisions such as abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and building of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, adding that he was also “a proud Hindu”.
He told The Indian Express Friday that a year after he first voiced his grievances against the party’s state leadership (while also speaking to this paper), the party had done nothing to redress them, “except change the PCC chief”.
At a media interaction in Ahmedabad on Friday morning, Hardik said: “Instead of fulfilling its responsibility towards the welfare of people, I see the state leadership stuck in conflicts. If someone speaks up for the welfare of the party, they start making predictions about the person, whether he intends to leave the party. They should rather sit down with that person and try to understand his problems, his thinking and vision for the party.”
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He added that he was proud of his Hindu identity. “I come from Raghuvanshi clan, I am from the Luv-Kush lineage and I believe in Ram, Shiv and Kuldevi. It is obvious that I am a Hindu and I make all attempts to follow its rituals. On April 28, on the death anniversary of my father, I am going to distribute 4,000 copies of the Gita. I am proud to be a Hindu,” Hardik said.
In the interview to Divya Bhaskar, he said: “The BJP has a leadership with terrific decision-taking ability. I am not saying this because I am upset with the Congress. They work a lot on their organisation, making regular changes in the role chart. Like a phone gets updated, in the same manner, the BJP also brings new updates. This has been going on for years now, even people are saying that the Congress is losing and the BJP is winning because of it.”
Asked specifically whether he would defect to the BJP, Hardik said: “I am very clear on my stance that I will be doing what I can to take Gujarat forward. Many people link me with (Arvind) Kejriwal. The Congress, AAP, BJP… I have all options open.”
However, in the media interaction, he denied any recent communication with the BJP, while adding that its political strategies were better than the Congress’s. “It is the job of the Opposition to work for the welfare of people and care for them. When they fail to do their job, then people start looking for options… I believe that the BJP’s political strategies are very good.”
Asked whether he feared action for having defied the orders of the Gujarat party in-charge, who had asked members to desist from criticism in public, Hardik said: “Political loss should worry those who have concerns for their future. My only concern is the people of Gujarat and their welfare. I have discussed with (AICC in-charge) Raghu Sharma my issues with the state leadership, that it does not allow me to work.”
Reacting to Hardik’s statements, Gujarat BJP president C R Paatil said, “The entire country is influenced by the ideology of the BJP. The impeccable leadership of the BJP and the hard work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have led the country to the path of development, and the world has seen this since 2014 (Lok Sabha elections)… It is natural that many leaders of the Congress are also influenced by the same, not just Hardik Patel. But the other leaders cannot say it openly.”
In a recent interview to The Indian Express, Hardik had referred to his position in the Gujarat Congress as that of a “groom who has undergone vasectomy right after marriage” and had attacked the state leadership for not including him in decision-making.
After his comments, AAP Gujarat president Gopal Italia had invited Hardik to join his party. Hardik had then reiterated that he would not leave the Congress.
The recent developments come in the wake of the Supreme Court staying Hardik’s conviction by a court in Gujarat in violence during the 2015 Patidar agitation. Hardik can hence contest the 2022 Gujarat Assembly elections, and he has indicated his intention to do so. At the time of the 2017 Assembly elections, he had been younger than 25 and hence could not contest.
A member of the powerful Patidar community, Hardik had led a popular agitation for quota for the Patidars against the BJP government, before the 2017 Assembly elections. The Congress’s strong performance in those polls was attributed to some extent to the Patidar anger, and the Congress has been banking on Hardik for the Gujarat Assembly elections 2022. Along with Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor, Hardik is considered among the tallest next generation leaders of the state.
Inducted into the Congress in March 2019, Hardik was made the working president in July 2020. He has been chafing for some time now about not getting enough of a say in the running of the party, which took 10 months to even replace its last president.
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