Gujarat bribery allegations: Who are Narendra Patel and Nikhil Savani, the Patidar leaders who quit BJP
Hours after joining the BJP, Narendra Patel, an activist of the Hardik Patel-led PAAS claimed that he was offered Rs one crore for switching loyalties.
Hours after joining the BJP, Narendra Patel, an activist of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) claimed on Sunday that he was offered Rs one crore as bribe for switching loyalties.
His dramatic press conference in Ahmedabad was the latest in Patidar leaders switching sides ahead of the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections.
Soon after Patel levelled his allegations, where he displayed wads of notes which were allegedly offered to him by BJP, another Patidar leader quit the ruling party days after joining it.
So, who is Narendra Patel?
Patel is a close aide of Hardik and the North Gujarat PAAS convener. He had joined the BJP in the presence of state party chief Jitu Vaghani on Sunday and within hours called a press conference to allege that he was offered Rs one crore to go to the ruling party.
At the press conference, Narendra showed Rs 10 lakh cash to media persons, claiming it was given to him as "advance" by former PAAS leader Varun Patel, who had joined the BJP on Saturday. He alleged that the "entire deal was brokered by Varun".
"He told me that I will get Rs one crore. After meeting Vaghani at his house, I was taken to the state BJP headquarters on Sunday night where I was given Rs 10 lakh as advance by Varun. I was told that I will get the remaining Rs 90 lakh on Monday during a BJP function," Patel alleged.
He said he followed Varun's instruction and joined the BJP just to "expose" the party. "I can never betray my community. The BJP can't buy me and my loyalty for the Patidar community," he said.
According to The Indian Express, it is hard to say if Narendra is still a key aide of Hardik as just two months ago, he had alleged that he was assaulted by Hardik and his aides at a hotel in Patan.
Narendra had alleged that the quota stir spearhead and others roughed him up at Navjivan Hotel in Patan when he had gone to meet them. Hardik had held a public meeting in Patan on that day and as per Narendra's complaint, he had gone to meet the PAAS leader before the rally.
Narendra, however, later withdrew the complaint after a month.
BJP dismisses allegations
Reacting to allegations, the BJP claimed it was a "drama" staged at the behest of the Congress.
"All these allegations are false. It was a drama (enacted) by Narendra Patel at the behest of Congress. He voluntarily came to us to join the BJP and then took a u-turn within hours. It proves that everything was pre-planned," Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said on Monday.
"It is all fabricated drama. He came with Varun Patel to join BJP and did a U-turn in 2-3 hours," he added.
Nikhil Savani - the man of the hour?
Hours after Narendra's allegations, Savani, a Patidar leader and former aide of Hardik, quit the BJP saying he was "dismayed" by news of the saffron party offering money to Opposition leaders.
Savani, along with two other Patidar leaders, had joined BJP just two days ago. He said that he is likely to return to Hardik's side after quitting the party.
Savani is believed to be close to Hardik and is the Surat convenor of PAAS. He was being touted as BJP's new Patel leader
Savani said he was "pained and upset" by these claims. "I joined BJP because the government had done good things in the past. But the party is now offering money to people to join them. I am upset by these revelations," Savani said on Monday.
When quizzed about his future plans, Savani said he would return to Hardik's side. "What Hardik is doing is correct. I also congratulate Narendra for not being swayed by the money on offer. He comes from a poor family, but he didn't choose Rs one crore," Savani added.
He has also requested a meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, he said.
Patel's accusations came a day after two of Hardik's key aides – Varun Patel and Reshma Patel – joined the BJP, alleging that the quota agitation spearhead had become a "Congress agent" and was trying to use the agitation to overthrow the present state government.
Last week, state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki had invited Hardik to join the party. Solanki even promised to give an additional 20 percent reservation to economically backward sections in the state if the Congress came to power after the upcoming assembly polls.
Varun and Reshma were among the prominent faces of the Hardik-led PAAS and were critical of the ruling BJP during the agitation. They joined the BJP on Saturday after a meeting with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and state party chief Jitu Vaghani during its parliamentary board meeting, which was also attended by BJP president Amit Shah.
The Election Commission has said the state will go to polls before 18 December. The BJP and Congress are pitted against each other for the important election.
With inputs from PTI
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Addressing the foundation day of the All India Mahila Congress, Gandhi said that the ideology of the Congress is completely opposite of the BJP-RSS and only one of the two ideologies can rule the country.