A day after two key leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti joined the BJP, leading to allegations that they had been “lured away”, another PAAS leader Narendra Patel accused the ruling party of offering him a “bribe of Rs 1 crore” to join it.
Dismissing Patel’s allegation, the Gujarat BJP described his allegation as a “publicity stunt” done on behalf of the opposition Congress. The Congress, meanwhile, demanded that an FIR be registered against BJP leaders and Patel’s allegation investigated.
On Sunday evening, Patel held a press conference in Ahmedabad to announce that he had joined the BJP. Hours later, he accused the BJP of offering him Rs 1 crore as “bribe”.
On Monday, Patel displayed bundles of currency notes, which he claimed was an “advance of Rs 10 lakh” given to him by the BJP, and claimed that his announcement of joining the ruling party was part of his “sting operation” to “expose” it.
Patel is Mehsana convener and member of the core committee of PAAS, led by Hardik Patel.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Narendra Patel claimed that former PAAS leader Varun Patel, who joined the BJP on Saturday along with another leader Reshma Patel, had approached him for a “deal”. “Varun Patel came to me after his talks with the BJP. He told me that the BJP had fulfilled most of the demands of the community and that Hardik was milking issues to gain popularity. He said I could benefit by up to Rs 1 crore by joining the BJP,” alleged Patel.
“I took a day’s time to think over Varun’s proposal before meeting with local BJP leaders. Once I conveyed that I am joining the party, Varun took me to meet (BJP state chief) Jitu Vaghani. Varun handed over a bag of Rs 10 lakh in cash and promised to hand over the remaining Rs 90 lakh after the formal function. However, the media was already waiting at the venue. I played along as I had no other option to expose their real face,” claimed Patel.
“It was necessary for me to take this step to show the community the real face of those who call themselves their leaders, who joined the BJP for the sake of money. I was never going to join the BJP nor am I joining the BJP in the future. I am a Patidar first, then a PAAS member,” said Patel.
Reacting to Patel’s allegation, Vaghani said, “I have nothing to do with this controversy. He (Narendra Patel) had come to our camp at Shanti Niketan in Gandhinagar where the parliamentary board’s meeting is on. He appeared before the media and wore our saffron sash. And if he wanted, as he claims now, to expose something, he could have said it then only before the media. And in his first interview, he did not name me. It is only subsequently that he is naming me. In short, it is a conspiracy by the Congress. Neither me nor the BJP has anything to do with it.”
On the other hand Varun Patel, said: “It is not true. We deny all the allegations.”
At a press conference in New Delhi, Union Law Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the bribery allegation by the aide of Hardik Patel was a “gimmick”.
“I won’t talk more about this (alleged bribe) than has already been said by the Gujarat BJP leader, but if there’s a claim of Rs 1 crore bribe, why is only 10 lakh being shown? Where is Rs 90 lakh?”
Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said, “Narendra Patel had come to join the BJP in front of the media. Three hours after that, if he takes an U-turn, it is a matter of his trustworthiness. This is a conspiracy by the Congress, it’s a publicity stunt.”
Hardik Patel did not respond to requests for comment. However, on Sunday night, the PAAS leader posted on Twitter: “The public of Gujarat is not so cheap that the BJP can buy them. The people of Gujarat are being insulted. The people of Gujarat will avenge this insult.”
In another tweet, he alleged: “The BJP has set a budget of Rs 500 crore to purchase leaders in rebellion against the government. I am unable to understand that if they have indeed done development, what is the need for this purchase?”
Incidentally, in August, Narendra Patel had filed a case in Patan district, accusing Hardik Patel and five of his aides of assault and dacoity against a Patidar member Dilip Sevaliya.
Asked about that case, Narendra Patel said, “It is the past. I have already withdrawn the case. I had filed the case because the incident occurred in front of me with my friend Sevaliya, who was assaulted and his gold chain robbed by Hardik’s aides while he watched it happen.”
Patel said Hardik called him on Monday to congratulate him for “exposing” the BJP.
In Delhi, the Congress leadership demanded that an FIR be registered against the Gujarat BJP, and “an investigation (be ordered) under the superintendence of a sitting judge of the Gujarat high court”.
“Rampant allegations that the BJP is trying to break them through bribery are being made by people affiliated with movements, and all you hear from the Prime Minister and the president of the BJP is deafening silence,” said party spokesperson Manish Tiwari.