The two Patels of Gujarat: Reshma Patel, Hardik's former aide, arrives on the battlefield as BJP's knight in shining armour

As Patidar leader Hardik Patel battles the sex-CD controversies which have raided the media, BJP's alternative to the young turk is emerging as new opposing face to Hardik - Reshma Patel. Till October this year, Reshma was part of Hardik's camp, but she quit her "mentor's" camp and joined the BJP just a month ago with the hope that the saffron party will "fulfil their demands."

Reshma, who is separated from her husband, lives in Ahmedabad with her twin children and refers to herself as an 'orphan', was the one who continued with the hunger strike for the Patidars when her former aide Hardik was arrested and exiled to Rajasthan court. NDTV quoted Reshma as saying, "I realised that someone needed to keep making our demands. So, I sat on a hunger strike and even when I was arrested, I refused to eat."

File image of Patidar leader Hardik Patel. PTI

File image of Patidar leader Hardik Patel. PTI

Reshma was among the prominent faces of the Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and had remained critical of the ruling BJP during the agitation.

But in a dramatic turn of events, she, along with another key aide of Hardik, Varun Patel, joined the ruling BJP in the poll-bound state about a month ago.

'Hardik a Congress agent'

Reshma joined the BJP 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.

Reshma, who lives in the Ahmedabad flat with a woman from the Patel agitation who she calls her sister, alleged that Hardik had become a "Congress agent" and that he was trying to use the agitation to overthrow the present state government.

“Our agitation was about getting reservation under the OBC quota, not about uprooting the BJP and bringing the Congress to power,” Ms. Reshma Patel said, according to PTI.

"While the BJP always supported the community and accepted a majority of our demands, Congress is only trying to use Patels as a vote bank. We do not want to be part of such malicious conspiracy," she claimed.

"Hardik's character is now clear to all in Gujarat. He has no right to speak about the dignity of women and is blaming our party just to save his own reputation," said Reshma,

Unfazed by the announcement of his key aides, Hardik said in a tweet he that will continue to fight for the people. "The centipede will continue to run even if some of his legs break. People are with me, and I will continue to fight for them," he said.

But now, with the battle lines drawn ahead of the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, it is likely that the two Patels will battle on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Patel vs Patel

Caste politics, like in every other state, plays an important role in Gujarat too. With elections for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly less than a month away, all parties are desperate to get the caste equation right. The articulate and vocal Reshma, in this political context, is BJP's counter to Hardik.

The Patel community, which used to be a staunch supporter of the BJP, is up in arms against the state government over its demand for reservations. Having a prominent Patel on its side can help the ruling BJP to mitigate some of the anti-incumbency sentiments in the state that were fuelled further by the Patidar agitation.

The community's population in the state is around 13 percent and will play a crucial role in deciding the outcome in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah's home state.

According to the NDTV report, Reshma's one-month stint at the Sabarmati jail helped establish her stature as a young, articulate woman leading the agitation from the front.

In their quest for the support of the powerful Patels, both the Congress and the BJP had reached out to her. The report says that Reshma might've joined the BJP only because Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi did not meet her. "I sent him a letter asking what his plans were for the reservation. But he didn't reply," she confirmed.

The Congress, meanwhile, acted on the golden opportunity presented by the anti-BJP sentiments prevalent among the community. They are likely to join hands with Hardik to win over the Patidar community.

Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 17:06 PM

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