"When I was coming, people shouted 'Jai Sardar (an invocation to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel). I also shouted 'Jai Sardar'. We are all marching ahead on the call of 'Jai Sardar'. This community (Patidar) has today come together because of that boy," he said without taking the name of the 22-year-old Hardik.
The 87-year-old politician, an important leader of Patels who still enjoys clout in the State, was speaking at an event organised by the Patidar community near the temple town of Somnath, around 400km from here.
Keshubhai, once a rival of the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, quit BJP in 2012 and floated Gujarat Parivartan Party to contest the Assembly elections that year. However, he resigned from the fledgling outfit after it won just two Assembly seats in a 182-member House.
The veteran politician, who himself won from Visavadar in Junagadh district, later resigned as MLA due to ill health.
Though the two-time BJP Chief Minister had met Hardik at least once during the height of the quota agitation last year, this is possibly the first time he has showered praise on the young community leader from a public forum.
Before his arrest, Hardik had come calling on Keshubhai before meeting Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in September last year.
Hardik, lodged in Surat's Lajpore Jail, faces charges of "sedition" and "waging war against the government" in cases filed in Ahmedabad and Surat.
An order on his bail plea in Ahmedabad is likely to be pronounced by a court tomorrow. Hardik has been leading the agitation for quota under the banner of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti.