A file photo of Hardik Patel. Photo: PTI
A file photo of Hardik Patel. Photo: PTI

Opposition parties race to woo Hardik Patel ahead of Gujarat assembly polls

Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel says people of his community will decide whether he should join politics

Ahmedabad: Hardik Patel has hinted he may join politics if his community wants, following which all opposition parties in Gujarat are trying to woo the Patidar quota agitation leader to join them, apparently with an eye on the state assembly polls next year.

The 22-year-old leader, who is demanding inclusion of the Patidar community under the other backwards classes (OBC) quota, had walked out of jail on Friday after being granted bail by the Gujarat high court.

To a question that day on his chances of joining active politics, he had not ruled out the possibility. “People of my community will decide if I have to join politics or not. I will take the decision when my community tells me. Otherwise, I don’t feel that we have to be in politics to do something for our nation and people," he said.

Following this, the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made a beeline for Hardik’s inclusion in their parties—some openly inviting him while others did so by sending feelers.

The move by the parties is seen as an attempt towards electoral benefit, keeping in mind the state polls due next year. The Patidar community, to which Hardik belongs, is numerically strong in the state with 18% population.

It has so far been a staunch supporter of the ruling BJP. Despite hinting that he may take a the political plunge if his community says so, Hardik has kept his cards close to his chest on whether he will join politics in the near future, saying he is not a political leader but a social leader.

“I will not join any political party. All these are speculations. You will come to know what I will do when the time comes," Hardik had earlier told reporters.

Though NCP is a small player in Gujarat, its president Jayant Patel was among the first to greet Hardik when he came out of Lajpor jail in Surat. “The doors of our parties are open for Hardik Patel any day," said member of legislative assembly Patel.

Surat Congress leaders had put up posters and were present to welcome Hardik when he came out of jail. “We have conveyed to Hardik Patel and his team that any person who is agreeable to the ideology of Congress party is welcome. We are also ready to discuss all their issues by meeting them," Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.

Also, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, during his recent visit to Gujarat, had endorsed Hardik. During a closed-door meeting with MLA Nalin Kotadia, who has been booted out of BJP for supporting the Patel quota stir, Kejriwal is learnt to have asked him to bring Patel quota agitation leaders to the AAP.

Late on Sunday, Hardik reached Khodaldham in Rajkot district, where he held a road show. The district administration imposed some restrictions on movement, banning large gatherings in Rajkot as a precautionary measure to avoid any law and order problem.

Members of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, an organization led by Hardik, said he will continue with his road show on Monday at Patan before leaving for Udaipur, where former Congress MLA of Rajasthan Pushkarlal Patel invited him to stay at his house during his stay outside the state.

While granting bail to Hardik in two sedition cases last week, the high court asked him to stay outside Gujarat for the next six months. Hardik’s rally on reservation held in Ahmedabad on 25 August last year had sparked violence, killing 10 people, including a policeman besides causing damage to public properties and vehicles across Gujarat.

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