Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel will plunge into electoral politics in the upcoming Lok Sabha election by contesting from Amreli constituency in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Sources close to Hardik told The Indian Express that it has not been decided whether Hardik would contest the election on a political party ticket or as an Independent candidate. “But he will be fighting against the ruling BJP,” they said.
Hardik, 25, is at present touring Rajasthan after spending two days in Uttar Pradesh.
According to the sources, the opposition Congress has offered two seats — Mehsana and Amreli — to Hardik. “However, there is a ban on his entry in Mehsana because of the criminal case against him, so there is no point fighting from there. Whereas, Amreli is the best option for him to contest and win the elections,” a source said.
When asked about it, state Congress president Amit Chavda said that there has been “no official dialogue” on the issue, so far. “There is no official proposal (in this regard) either from our side or from their (Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti) side…There is no official dialogue (of that nature) from either side. If such a thing comes up in future, we will see,” Chavda told The Indian Express.
In the 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat, Hardik had backed the Congress, and several PAAS leaders were fielded by the opposition party.
Mehsana has been the ground zero of the Patidar agitation for quota in government jobs and education that catapulated Hardik to the political limelight. However, last July, Hardik and two others were convicted by a court in Visnagar of Meshana district in connection with rioting and arson case in which Patidar protesters had allegedly vandalised the office of local BJP MLA, Rushikesh Patel, during the 2015 quota stir. Currently the conviction stands suspended and Hardik is out on bail. One of the bail conditions prohibits his entry into Mehsana district.
Amreli, on the other hand, has been one of the key districts of Gujarat that was politically influenced by the Patidar quota agitation. At present, all five Assembly seats of Amreli – Amreli, Dhari, Babra, Rajula, Savarkundla – are represented by the Congress. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Paresh Dhanani represents Amreli constituency, while the Amreli district panchayat is also being ruled by the Congress.
Sources added that Hardik is consulting his supporters to finalise the strategy for making his electoral debut in the Lok Sabha elections.
Hardik had earlier declared that he would not contest elections till the Patidar community gets the OBC reservation benefits in jobs and education. “Now, that the constitutional reservation (10 per cent quota for economically weaker section among the general category) has been attained, the promise stands fulfilled, and therefore, Hardik has made up his mind of fighting the elections, most probably from Amreli,” a close aide of Hardik said.
Sources close to Hardik said, “He feels that after the reservation for the unreserved communities, it would be a better option to serve the youth and farmers of the country as an elected member and probably sitting on some post.”
Hardik in a recent interview to a local newspaper had said that he “doesn’t want to pursue the politics of protest, but of providing solutions”. “Till the youths don’t take active part in the country’s politics, the level of politics in the country won’t improve,” he had said.
Interestingly, Kinjal Patel, who married Hardik last month tweeted late Tuesday night, “To date, Hardik Patel did not have politics in the name of society. They not only gave the benefit of reservation to society but also to all poor society. Now Hardik Patel, a big fighter for farmers and youth, has to fight and give rights to the disadvantaged people.” Hardik later retweeted it.