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No decision yet on joining BJP or AAP, says Hardik; hails saffron party over Ayodhya issue, Article 370

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Ahmedabad, May 19: A day after resigning from the Congress, Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Thursday said he "wasted" three years of his life in the party which indulged in "caste politics", and maintained that he has not taken a decision yet on joining any other political outfit, be it the ruling BJP in Gujarat or the new entrant AAP.

No decision yet on joining BJP or AAP, says Hardik; hails saffron party over Ayodhya issue, Article 370

Addressing a press conference here, Patel (28) hailed the BJP for its efforts in the Ayodhya case and also appreciated it for abrogating Article 370, while also accusing the leaders of the "visionless" Congress of being biased against the Gujarati people. However, the Congress hit back saying that Patel quit the party as he was afraid that he might have to go to jail in sedition cases registered against him.

The opposition party also claimed that Patel might join the ruling BJP. Patel resigned from the Congress on Wednesday, months ahead of the Assembly polls in Gujarat, criticising it over the functioning of the state leadership.

Patel was made the working president in July 2020, a year after he was inducted into the party. Asked if he would join the BJP or AAP, Patel said, "I have not taken any decision as of now on joining any political party, be it the BJP or AAP. Whatever decision I take, it will be in the interest of the people." According to Patel, his main contention was that he was never given any meaningful work despite being the working president of the state unit.

"It is a fact that Congress benefited immensely in the 2017 Assembly polls due to the Patidar quota agitation (led by him). However, I was not given any responsibility even after making me working president. I was not even invited to the key meetings of the party...," he said. "Some 7-8 leaders have been running the show for the last 25 years in Gujarat. Second cadre leaders are not given any importance.

Party just believes in the theory of use and throw. During the last 7 years, nearly 122 Congress leaders had left the party, including 30 MLAs and nearly 40 former MLAs," Patel added. He alleged that the party never speaks anything on the issues concerning Hindus, such as the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) or on the issue of a 'Shivling' (said to be) found in a mosque in Varanasi. "Ruling BJP's efforts in the Ayodhya case were worth appreciating. I had welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict and my family even donated Rs 21,000 for the construction of Ram Mandir. BJP also did a good job by scrapping Article 370. I will not hesitate to appreciate what is worth appreciating," he said.

The Gujarat Congress is too much into "caste-based politics", he claimed and added that poll tickets as well as party posts are given solely on that criteria. "I regret that I wasted my three years in this party," Patel said.

Citing the examples of Patidar leaders Vitthal Radadiya and Narhari Amin, who had quit Congress and later joined BJP in the past, Patel alleged that Congress always did injustice to the leaders from the community and sidelined them whenever they became powerful. The former Patidar quota agitation spearhead claimed that the Congress had no vision and that leaders of the party were biased against Gujarati people, like "Adani and Ambani".

Patel also slammed Gujarat Congress in-charge Raghu Sharma for his statement that he (Patel) was having some sort of backdoor dealing with the ruling BJP about the withdrawal of cases against the quota agitators. "So, open discussions with the government about withdrawal of cases is now considered as dealing? Why does Congress never help us in that regard? If tomorrow, the government agrees to Jignesh Mevani's demand for the withdrawal of cases against Dalit agitators, will he be accused of joining hands with BJP?" asked Patel.

Referring to the Congress's Chintan Shivir held recently in Rajasthan, Patel said the party needs to do 'chinta' (worry) instead of 'chintan' (brainstorming) as it lacks any vision as well as formula to win the elections. Responding to Patel's allegations, Gujarat Congress chief Jagdish Thakor said whatever he spoke during the press conference and what was written in his resignation letter was scripted by the ruling BJP.

"Hardik feared that he may have to go to jail in sedition cases if he stays in Congress. Hence, to save himself from the possible punishment, he decided to quit Congress and he might join the BJP as well," he claimed. Patel, who once led the Patidar community's agitation for reservation, faces nearly 25 criminal cases in Gujarat, including sedition FIRs registered one each in Ahmedabad and Surat. Refuting Patel's allegations that he was sidelined and not given any important work despite being a working president, Thakor said the party had made him a "star campaigner" in the recently-held Assembly polls to five states. PTI

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