Hardik Patel to contest Lok Sabha polls, Lucknow announcement stirs up Gujarat
Patel is likely to contest the elections from Amreli in Gujarat. The Congress may support him by not fielding a candidate against him.
Patidar leader Hardik Patel’s announcement to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, months after he attained the eligible age of 25 years, evoked a mixed response in political circles of Gujarat.
The firebrand leader, who has been spearheading the agitation for OBC status to his Patidar community since 2015, declared his much awaited debut in Lucknow.
The announcement, made away from his home state, has generated quite a bit of curiosity among his supporters as well as opponents.
While Hardik chose not to make public as yet whether he would go solo or join any political party and the constituency he plans to contest from, sources close to the young leader said he could opt for Amreli in Saurashtra.
According to sources, the Congress may support him by not fielding a candidate against him. Up in arms against the BJP government over reservation benefits in government job and college admissions, Hardik’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) outfit had supported the Congress in 2015 local body and the 2017 assembly elections.
“He (Hardik) has announced his plans of contesting elections in Lucknow. We understand that he will soon decide on which party’s support he wants,” said PAAS spokesperson Nikhil Savani.
After addressing a rally in Rajasthan on Tuesday, Hardik for the first time officially acknowledged his plans of entering electoral politics in an interview to a local daily.
Hardik’s former aides, however, see red in the way he made the announcement.
“Why did he make the announcement outside Gujarat?” asked Dinesh Bambhania, a former supporter.
He went on to add that Hardik was most likely going to contest from Amreli which is a stronghold of the Congress. “So the move is not going to benefit the Congress.”
He also said that Hardik has betrayed the community that so far supported him, as Patidars’ demand of OBC status and justice to 13 youths who died during the 2015 agitation has not been met yet.
Congress welcomed the decision. “We welcome the decision of Hardik to contest elections. He will make a good contestant against the Modi government and also as he represents the youth, who are struggling to get jobs,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.
The Congress in 2017 won all five assembly seats under the Amreli Lok Sabha constituency. Amreli and adjoining Junagadh districts have been a Congress stronghold. The number of Patidars there is significant, which largely restricted the BJP to 99 seats in the 182-member assembly.
BJP however said that Hardik’s candidacy would benefit the BJP.
“His candidacy will only benefit the BJP as Hardik now stands exposed. When the Congress has not fulfilled any of the 17 demands made by him earlier, he cannot go back to his community and ask for votes. This announcement is a gimmick, which wont work when the Gujarat voter has made up its mind to make Modi the PM again,” BJP spokesman Bharat Pandya said.