As poll fever grips Gujarat, Congress and Patidar leaders deliver twin blows, leave BJP dazed and confused

Sometimes, a series of events points to a major upheaval.

This is exactly what is happening in Gujarat politics, leaving the ruling BJP bewildered and speechless.

As poll fever grips Gujarat, Congress and Patidar leaders deliver twin blows, leave BJP dazed and confused

File image of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Less than 48 hours after the BJP celebrated two of Hardik Patel's key aides joining the fold, a number of young Patidar leaders have snapped ties with the BJP amid allegations of bribery.

Then, OBC leader Alpesh Thakore joined Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in a massive show of strength on Monday afternoon.

On Saturday evening, BJP leaders were smiling from ear to ear as they were joined by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leaders Varun Patel and Reshma Patel—believed to be close to Patel—before the media.

However, Alpesh Thakore, the convenor of OBC Ekta Manch and president of Thakore Sena, announced he was joining the Congress after a meeting with party bigwigs Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi.

On Sunday evening, the BJP was in for a rude shock. Narendra Patel, PAAS convenor from north Gujarat, dropped a bombshell just hours after he joined the BJP: Alleging that the ruling party attempted to bribe him. Patel displayed wads of notes which were allegedly offered to him by BJP.

To see something like this in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, and that too against the BJP, was stunning.

Narendra alleged that Patidar leader Varun Patel, who joined the BJP on Saturday evening, took him to meet Gujarat BJP president Jitubhai Vaghani and other leaders on Sunday. He claims they gave him Rs 10 lakh as part of Rs 1 crore deal and said that Rs 90 lakh would be given to him on Monday.

Last month, Narendra lodged a police complaint against Hardik and three supporters in Patan in north Gujarat, but withdrew it later.

On Monday, another young Patel face quit the BJP. Nikhil Sawani joined the BJP a fortnight ago after the BJP gave some assurances to the PAAS on reservations for the Patel community.

Sawani said he realised that the BJP was taking the community for a ride and could not stay with the party. "I watched this from close quarters. The BJP is treating Patidars as a vote bank and what they had promised was a mere lollipop," he said.

On Monday, Patidar leader Atul Patel alleged that the BJP had offered him a bribe and claimed that he had this on tape.

Thakore, son of Congress veteran Khodaji Thakore of north Gujarat, controlled the crowd as if it was a classroom, silencing them and getting them to cheer wildly on cue.

Amid conflicting media reports, confusion prevailed over whether or not Hardik met Rahul. However, Hardik, speaking to Firstpost, clarified that he didn't meet Rahul because he was tied up with his rallies and added that he was sure he would meet Rahul when he visited next time.

Hardik also mocked allegations that he was a Congress agent.

“My fight is for the cause of the Patidars not for political ambitions, I am not joining the Congress party. My fight is against the BJP. I will work for the defeat of the ruling party which has only humiliated and insulted the Patidars. Our youngsters were killed and the police was unleashed on us. I can never support such a party.”

“Those who were sold out and breached the trust of the community to join the BJP for personal ambitions and huge money are calling me a Congress agent? I don’t give a damn, I don’t bother who calls me what. I am what I am.”

“I don’t need their certificate. My movement, my fight will continue as long as I have the backing of my people,” Hardik added.

Hardik's rallies across Gujarat are drawing large crowds, even as angry Patidars are burning the effigies of Varun and Reshma to protest them joining the BJP.

Hardik knows well that it is his independence from the Congress that gives him a strong political and moral credence to his movement among Patidars, which has been a loyal BJP vote bank for decades.

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, speaking to Firstpost, said:  “I am not joining the Congress party. However, I am determined to defeat the BJP, not only in Gujarat in December 2017 but also in the 2019 general election. Dalits can never forget the atrocities and the insults meted out by the BJP."

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Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 16:46:35 IST

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