With Gujarat headed to Assembly elections later this year, Patidar leader Hardik Patel is set to join the BJP along with his supporters on June 2.
Ending speculation over Hardik’s next move after he walked out of the Congress on May 18, Gujarat BJP media convenor Yagnesh Dave said, “Yes, he (Hardik) will join the BJP with his supporters at the party’s state headquarters Shree Kamalam. Party president C R Paatil will remain present on the occasion.”
Senior BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said, “Any person who is eager to serve the country through the medium of BJP… all such persons are hugely welcomed in BJP.”
He declined comment when he was asked why was the ruling party inducting Hardik after the state had registered sedition cases against him. He said the authorised leadership of the party would clarify that at an appropriate time.
Another senior party leader, who did not wish to be named in this report, said, “To induct Hardik into the BJP is a decision of the party leadership. So, no party worker will say anything against it. But one thing is very clear that considering his (Hardik’s) past behaviour towards the party, nobody is happy with him. Even if he is taken into the party, I don’t think he will be welcomed heartily.”
“By deciding to induct Hardik, our party has sent out a clear message to the people of Gujarat that his allegations against the BJP and its leadership were false,” the leader said.
Hardik, 28, catapulted to the political centrestage in 2015 when he spearheaded the Patidar quota agitation against the BJP government. It was instrumental in the ouster of the then Chief Minister, and current Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Anandiben Patel.
Initially, the main demand of the Hardik-led agitation was the grant of OBC status for the Patidar community. Subsequently, it was altered with a demand for reservation for the economically weaker section (EWS).
Hardik’s induction into the BJP is significant given that Assembly polls are due in the state later this year.
Once a fierce critic of the BJP, Hardik began praising the party leadership recently for steps like the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K and ensuring construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Following the quota agitation in which 14 Patidar lost their lives, Hardik openly supported the Congress in the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections.
But differences with the party leadership emerged and there was talk that he had been sidelined and was not party to key decisions.
Eventually, on May 18, he resigned from the Congress, alleging that it was the “most casteist” and “anti-Gujarati” party.
Mounting a scathing attack, Hardik alleged that the state Congress leadership was more interested in providing “chicken sandwich” to Rahul Gandhi when he was visiting Gujarat instead of briefing him on the problems of the state.