Importance of being Naresh Patel: Why Gujarat Cong is wooing him assiduously

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Naresh Patel is a Rajkot based businessman and promoter of Patel Brass Works. In a decade he has emerged as a prominent non-political leader of the Leuva Patels.

The businessman wields immense influence through philanthropy and has built educational institutions, hospitals, sports facilities and temples.

Patel is also the president of the Shree Khodaldham Trust which is a Temple of the deity revered by the Leuva Patels. He heads the trust that built the Khodiyar Mata temple at Kagwad in Saurashtra.

Almost all the political parties are wooing Patel since the Assembly elections are scheduled at the end of the year. In Saurashtra, Patel commands influence in the region. He is also in touch with Rajasthan’s Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The community could influence the outcome of the polls in about 35-40 seats in the Saurashtra region which has around four dozen seats.

Patel is also into cultural activities and is a singer and sitar player. The family business has a turnover of hundreds of crores. The Congress is wooing Naresh Patel, an influential Patidar leader along with political strategist Prashant Kishor for the Gujarat assembly polls which are slated at the end of the year, sources told IANS.

The BJP, wanting to stage its best electoral show, and the Aam Aadmi Party are also in touch with Patel. He has already indicated his interest in joining electoral politics but has been less than forthcoming about his choice of party.

Congress leaders in Gujarat feel that Naresh can ensure the party’s win in the crucial Saurashtra region and Prashant Kishor can build the narrative and strategy for the party.

The state is crucial for both the BJP and the Congress as the outcome will be a booster for the winner for the general elections in 2024. In 2017 the Congress was close to the BJP but lost badly in Surat. Patels preferred the BJP over the Congress despite Hardik Patel being on the Congress’ side.

Patel, chairman of Shree Khodaldham Trust (SKT), said in Rajkot that he was keen on joining politics. He has commissioned a survey to be carried by the youth of the community and they are going house to house to get the feedback. Patel said the survey committee of SKT is working through its network from the district to the village level and is approaching people to seek their opinion.

On the Prashant Kishor front, the sources said that he met the Gandhis last week and talked about working with the party, but both sides are tight-lipped on the issue.

The issue of availing the services of Prashant Kishor in the Gujarat Assembly polls was discussed in a meeting of state party leaders with Rahul Gandhi on March 24.

Since then back-channel talks have been going on after the initial negotiations failed, but the Congress has denied it.

However, the party has taken on board a close aide of Kishor to work for the party without any condition, as the joining of the political consultant was stalled by Congress leaders because he wanted a major say in ticket distribution.

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