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Gujarat elections: Two aides of Hardik Patel join BJP ahead of Patidar rally

Ketan Patel and Amrish Patel were conveners of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti.

assembly elections Updated: Nov 18, 2017 22:27 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Hardik Patel,Gujarat elections,Patidar rally
Hardik Patel (2nd from left) and Ketan Patel (right) with other Patidar leaders at a protest seeking reservation for the Patidar community.(File)

Two prominent leaders of the Patidar quota protest movement joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday, a possible boost for the saffron party that is looking to win over the disgruntled community ahead of December assembly elections.

Ketan Patel and Amrish Patel were both conveners of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), whose chief Hardik Patel is locked in negotiations with the Congress over a demand for reservations for the Patidar community in government jobs and education.

With this move, five of Hardik’s closest aides have deserted the 24-year-old firebrand leader and joined the BJP. Only two senior quota protest leaders – Dinesh Bambania and Alpesh Kathiriya – are with the outfit. A leader, Nitin Savani, quit the BJP after joining the party and claimed to have been paid a bribe of Rs 1 crore — a charge the saffron party rubbished.

The Congress is wooing Hardik in a bid to wean away the Patidars, who have traditionally supported the BJP but are angry over being denied quotas and OBC status. The Patidars comprise around 12% of the state’s population and can influence the outcome in 60-odd seats in a 182-member assembly. The BJP says Hardik is just one of several Patidar leaders, most of whom are with the saffron party.

Ketan and Amrish were co-accused in a sedition case along with Hardik, for allegedly instigating mobs to damage public property during violent protests two years ago demanding quotas. But Amrish was never arrested and Keten in February turned approver and was discharged.

“The aim of the Patidar agitation was never to work in favour of one political party to defeat another. Sadly today few so-called Patidar leaders are upto the same and quota issue has been put on back burner,” said Amrish soon after joining the BJP. The reference appeared to Hardik’s statements about the PAAS aiming to ensure a BJP defeat.

Ketan, who hails from the agitation’s epicenter Mehsana, also backed the government in connection with alleged police atrocities during the protests. “Calls transcripts produced in the court revealed that Dinesh Bambania had instigated mob to set police stations, buses, bus stands on fire across Gujarat. The police action was only a reaction’,” said Ketan.

First Published: Nov 18, 2017 17:53 IST