The Hardik Patel-Congress marriage seems to be heading for a divorce after just three years.
Patel, who joined the Congress in March 2019 and is currently the state Working President, has, since the last one month, started sending signals that he is reviewing his position, stand, and association with the party.
Congress sources said even before he made his dissent public through interviews, Patel had started acting against the party interests, and claimed that he had blocked the state organisation’s plan to have four to five Working Presidents.
The party’s state President Jagdish Thakor and his team wanted to give importance to four to five castes that have good dominance in the state and can help the party in creating a new social engineering. Towards this end, it wanted to have Working Presidents from the Patidar, Koli, Rajput, Brahmin/Baniya, and the Muslim community.
However, sources said Patel opposed the plan demanding that there should be only one Working President – that should be him and no one else, otherwise it has no meaning.
Posed this question by IANS through a text message, Patel preferred not to comment.
According to sources, Patel had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in April during the latter’s visit to Ahmedabad, when his entry into the BJP was worked out.
Sources however said that his entry into the state’s ruling party is not going to be a cake walk as one stalwart BJP leader is opposed to him since the leader’s political career was jeopardised by the Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti agitation.
Recently, Patel had been constantly alleging that few state Congress leaders are sidelining him in the party, he is not given work to do, otherwise he is ready to give 100 per cent to the party. He had appealed to the central leadership to intervene, but, at the same time, he also praised the BJP, removes the Congress symbol from his Twitter and other social media accounts. He has also started calling himself “hardcore Hindutvavadi”.
However, Thakor maintained that Patel was never sidelined and always given due importance in the party, adding that whenever the Patidar leader publicly dissented, he or Gujarat in-charge Raghu Sharma has tried to reach him out and discuss the issues and tried to resolve them.
Congress leaders attended the condolence meeting on his father’s first death anniversary condolence meeting, though some of us were not invited, Thakor said. He did accept that the party’s second phase reorganisation is delayed, but did not agree that it is because of Patel.
Asked what if Patel quits the party, Thakor, avoiding directly answering the question, said that the Congress is not dependent on one or few leaders or few MLAs, and even if few MLAs or leaders quit the party, it will have little impact on the party prospect in the coming elections. The party is prepared for all consequences, he added..
Political analyst Dilip Gohil said that Patel has been planning to quit Congress for the long-term benefit, as he does not see his future in the party. “He wants to become a victim so that he gets sympathy from the community and voters, that is why he is making allegations against state leaders, so they suspend him from the party, which is not likely to happen,” he added.
Gohil said his reading of Patel’s activities and statements over the last one month is that he is acting as per scripted plan given to him, but said his quitting Congress will have little impact, as shown by the 2017 Assembly elections results.
“No doubt, the Congress vote share and seats both increased, but at the same time, the BJP vote share increased by one and half per cent, which means the OBCs voted for it.”
Gohil is of view that for Congress gains in 2017 elections, the entire credit can’t be given to Patel, whose influence is fading, as results of the recent by-polls, civic and panchayat polls showed.
He also said that it seemed that Patel had great hopes of Rahul Gandhi’s intervention, but by the way, he gave the cold shoulder to Patel during his visit to Dahod, it was clear indication that the Congress is ready for his exit.