Hardik Patel, the Patidar quota agitation leader who joined the Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, was appointed the new working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) on Saturday.
The appointment comes ahead of the bypolls to eight assembly seats in Gujarat vacated by MLAs who quit the Congress to join the BJP, just before the Rajya Sabha elections held last month.
The 26-year old Patel is the youngest ever in the party in Gujarat to hold this position. “I am taking off in a car to cover 6,000 villages, to make a note of and discuss all their issues. And we shall win all the eight (assembly) seats,” Patel told this paper. He will begin his journey, the focus of which will be the regions of north Gujarat and Saurashtra, by visiting the Khodaldham temple in Rajkot district which is the goddess of the clan for the Leuva sect of the Patidar community, a press statement said.
Patel, who led the statewide agitation in 2015 under Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) which he founded demanding inclusion of Patidars in the OBC quota, is facing trial under charges of sedition, rioting and conspiracy among others and has been arrested multiple times. He was released on bail in March in a rioting case lodged in Ahmedabad. Members of PAAS face cases in at least 15 districts of the state.
As per a press statement issued by the office of K C Venugopal, general secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC), on Saturday evening, “Congress president has approved the proposal of the appointment of Hardik Patel as the working president of GPCC. The Congress president also approved the appointment of three district Congress Committee presidents — Mahendrasinh Parmar for Anand, Anand Chaudhary for Surat and Yasin Gajjan for Devbhoomi Dwarka.”
Twenty-six-year-old Patel’s rise in the Gujarat Congress can be seen simultaneously with the dismal situation of the party which has lost its eight MLAs since March this year ahead of the run up to Rajya Sabha polls in June where Congress managed to win just one seat out of four.
With eight assembly seats going to bypolls in September-October later this year and 2022 Gujarat assembly elections, Hardik is expected to strengthen the voter base among the Patidar community and youths, as per party sources.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Manish Doshi, spokesperson for the GPCC, said, “The Gujarat Congress welcomes the appointment of Hardik Patel as working president. He is a kind of leader who has fought battles for social justice, be it the issue of unemployment among youth or farmers’ plight. He has shown his leadership through the battles he fought for the society. With his appointment, the Congress will only benefit and its fight against the BJP-led state government, which believes in negative governance, will be strengthened.”
GPCC president Amit Chavda took to Twitter and posted, “Many congratulations to our young colleague for being appointed as working president. We will fight together more strongly for the welfare of people.”
According to state congress officials, even in 2017 in the run up to the then assembly elections, the Congress party had appointed four working presidents for the GPCC.
Yasin Gajjan, who was appointed president of Devbhumi Dwarka district unit of Congress, was serving as the working president of district unit for more than a year. He was appointed working president after Pratapsinh Jadeja, the then incumbent president of the party unit, defected to the BJP in the run up to the Lok Sabha election last year. Gajjan is a sitting member of the Devbhumi Dwarka district panchayat. He had defeated then Dwarka BJP MLA Pabubha Manek’s son in the district panchayat election.
Anand Chaudhary (49), two times Congress MLA from Mandvi seat which falls part in Surat district and part in Tapi district, had been selected as Congress party president of Surat district replacing Jagdish Patel alias Jagdish Kanaj. Chaudhary is a farmer and has good influence among tribals.
Mahendra Parmar, 60, a veteran Congress leader from Khambat taluka in Anand, has been appointed as district president of the Congress party on Saturday. Parmar has been the acting president of the district unit for over a year. He has been a three-term councillor of Khambat municipal corporation from 2000-2015, until he lost the 2015 local body polls. He had joined the party in 1993 as a youth leader when the district was still part of Kheda. Parmar is a farmer by profession and also has stakes in a family-run rice mill business.
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