Ahmedabad: Gujarat deputy chief minister and BJP leader Nitin Patel Monday dubbed quota spearhead Hardik Patel as an "agent of the Congress", even as the Opposition said the comments were an indication of the ruling party "losing its ground" in the poll-bound state.
As a fresh war of words broke out between Hardik and the ruling BJP, which is trying to keep the influential Patidar community in good stead, the former hit back by saying Nitin Patel was an "agent of Amit Shah".
This is perhaps for the first time that a prominent leader of the BJP has publicly criticised Hardik, who enjoys a considerable support among the Patidar community — a formidable vote bank considered loyal to the saffron outfit.
The trigger for Nitin Patel's outburst was the Patidar rally held in Patan on Saturday, wherein Hardik accused the BJP of "using" the community for achieving political goals. Though he did not appeal directly to vote for the Congress, the quota spearhead's remarks are perceived as a call for rallying behind the party in the polls scheduled later in 2017.
In an indication that Hardik's message was not lost out on the party, the Congress Monday criticised the Gujarat minister for using such language against the Patidar leader "who is fighting for the cause of his community".
Meanwhile, the deputy chief minister told reporters in Patan, "Hardik has now shown his true colours. I think he should join the Congress now. We have been saying since long that he was a Congress agent. We now stand vindicated as Hardik himself spoke in support of the Congress. We are happy that the truth has finally come out".
Referring to the BJP and its loyal vote bank at the rally, Hardik said Patidars had been supporting the BJP for lack of any option. "These people (BJP) used us too much. It happened so because, I assume, we did not have any option. You may still think that we do not have any option as we still do not want to go with the Congress because they did nothing for us," Hardik said. "At the same time, I believe that we should also do something which makes the Congress trust us ... I want you to give me a promise to uproot this rule of fear and hooliganism," he said.
Reacting to Nitin Patel's remarks, Hardik said on Monday, "He (Nitin Patel) is an agent of BJP president Amit Shah".
The quota spearhead also said he was ready to become the "agent of the BJP" if the state government takes decisions in favour of Patidars. "If Nitin Patel takes decisions in favour of Patel community, I am ready to become his agent. Do not try to deviate from the main issue. He (Nitin) should have introspected before calling me an agent. I believe that Nitin Patel is an agent of Amit Shah," Hardik told reporters.
Latching onto the comments of Patel, state Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil hailed Hardik's work for the Patidar community. "Hardik is a true Gujarati Patidar leader fighting for his community. Despite various pressure tactics from the BJP, he did not bow down. After Hardik's Patan rally, the BJP now feels that they are losing their ground. Nonetheless, being a deputy chief minister, Nitin Patel should not have used such words for Hardik," he said.
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Updated Date: Aug 28, 2017 21:47:12 IST