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To defeat ‘mahachor’ BJP, we can support ‘chor’ Congress: Hardik Patel

The Congress has invited Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and Patidar leader Hardik Patel for talks with Rahul Gandhi ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2017 21:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Patidar,Patidar Agitation,Hardik Patel
Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel during a press meet at his house in Ahmedabad.(PTI File Photo)

Patidar stir leader Hardik Patel on Monday called the Congress a “chor” (thief) and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party a “mahachor” (super thief) and said he will support the grand old party in order to defeat the saffron outfit in Gujarat, where the crucial assembly elections are due later this year.

“But have patience. Do not support (Congress) just now,” Patel said addressing a public rally at Mandal in north Gujarat, where he reached a couple of hours late on Monday night.

He also admitted he was present at a luxury hotel in Ahmedabad at the same time when the Congress’ vice president Rahul Gandhi checked into the premises but said he did not meet him amid swirling speculations they spoke to each other.

Patel, the face of influential Patidar community’s agitation for reservation in government jobs and admission to educational institutes, claimed he gave the meeting with Gandhi a miss owing to his busy schedule that included a roadshow and public rallies in north Gujarat.

Local television channels ran close-circuit television (CCTV) footage, which is available with the Hindustan Times, that showed Patel entering the Ummed Hotel late on Sunday night, and leaving through the back door in a brand new car without a registration plate at around 4pm the next day. Gandhi arrived at the same establishment around 1pm on Monday.

“After the Congress’s invite, I reached the hotel on Sunday at 3am. I met their (Congress) Gujarat in-charge (Gehlot). As it was too late, I decided to stay back at the hotel … But they (Bharatiya Janata Party) got the CCTV camera clips leaked because everything here (in Gujarat) is their (BJP) property,” the 24-year-old said.

“I can also explain why I reached so late here. I could not come out (of the hotel) due to media’s presence. I had not met Rahul Gandhi but the media would have claimed otherwise. But I did not meet (Pakistan’s Nawaz) Sharif at midnight like (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi,” he added.

The Congress had invited three young community representatives – OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and Patel – for talks with Gandhi during his visit to poll-bound Gujarat. While Thakor officially joined the Congress at a rally held in Gandhinagar, Mewani gave the event a miss.

The grand old party offered tickets to all the three youth leaders but Patel said he has no intention of contesting the polls. Sources say he is wary of siding with the Congress because it would provide the BJP with an opportunity to counter his influence on the politically significant community.

After the CCTV footage showing Patel’s presence at the hotel emerged, both the Patidar leader and Gujarat Congress in-charge Ashok Gehlot confirmed they met but said Gandhi was not present during their meeting.

Congress state president Bharatsinh Solanki told reporters that the meeting between Gandhi and Patel and Mewani was postponed and was likely to be held either on November 1, 2 or 3 when he will be back in Gujarat for Navsarjan Yatra.

Gehlot in a series of tweets also took a dig at the BJP government for the leak of CCTV camera clips.

“I met Hardik n Jignesh in Ummed Hotel. IB, Police are chckng hotel rooms. @PMOIndia @narendramodi ji Wat is happening in Gandhiji’s Gujarat? ...The rooms which hv been booked in my name are being checked. We are openly saying, we have met them n will keep meeting them in future too (sic),” he said in another tweet.

While senior Patidar leaders and religious organisations have accepted the BJP’s initiative to form the Non Reserved Category Educational and Economic Development Board and Commission against their demand of an OBC status, Patel has maintained that the agitation for the status would continue.

Though Patidars are traditional supporters of the BJP, Patel’s rallies against the Gujarat government have so far received a good response from community members.

With Thakor, an OBC leader who was opposed to the Patidar agitation, joining the Congress, the community that either wants an OBC status or the quota system to be abolished, may go against Patel’s plan to join hands with the grand old party, if he has any.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 11:52 IST