As the Aam Aadmi Party plans to get Hardik Patel onboard ahead of the 2017 assembly elections in PM Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, the 23-year-old firebrand Patidar leader has showed signs of siding with the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.
As the Delhi CM began his Gujarat tour on Friday, Hardik said he has been approached by AAP leaders for support and the community, which has been loyal to the BJP for decades, will soon take a call.
“We cannot oppose everyone. We have to support someone. The community will soon decide on whom to support,” said Hardik, who grabbed national attention last year by leading a series of agitations by the Patidar community demanding reservation in college admissions and government jobs.
“We are not going to stage any protest against Kejriwal’s visit. I am being approached by the AAP. A decision will be taken at the right time,” Hardik told HT over phone from Udaipur, where he is on a six-month exile as per the bail conditions in two sedition cases.
Last year, Hardik’s outfit Patidar Anamat Aandolan Samiti (PAAS) had declared support to the Congress in the local body elections held in November in which the party had trounced the BJP in the countryside. But now, the PAAS, which has announced it will campaign against the BJP in the next elections, is equally opposed to the Congress.
After visiting the families of Patidar youth killed in police firing last year during protests, and in Ahmedabad and Mehsana on Friday and Saturday, Kejriwal will address his first public rally on Sunday in Varacha area of Surat city which has a sizeable Patidar population.
Confirming that the AAP was in talks with the PAAS, the party’s Gujarat leadership maintained that the AAP is a natural choice for Patidars.
“Influential Patidars have been staunch supporters of the BJP, helping the party grow in Gujarat. But they feel let down by the BJP over the OBC quota issue. They are also disappointed with Congress. AAP is a new party and Kejriwal is the only one who can take the BJP head-on in the home state of Modi. This makes AAP a natural choice for Hardik and Patidars,’’ said an AAP leader.