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As Curtains Come Down on His Poll Debut, Hardik Patel Gears Up to Rally for Patidar Leaders in Gujarat

Patel has decided to hit the road across India to campaign against the BJP in full swing. He will extensively campaign for his close aides who are contesting on Congress tickets.

Vijaysinh Parmar | News18

Updated:April 3, 2019, 2:34 PM IST
As Curtains Come Down on His Poll Debut, Hardik Patel Gears Up to Rally for Patidar Leaders in Gujarat
File photo of Hardik Patel addressing a public meeting. (Reuters)

Ahmedabad: Undeterred by the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant an urgent hearing to stay his conviction putting an end to his electoral debut on Tuesday, Hardik Patel has begun flexing his muscles to fully focus on campaigning for the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

"If you can't help yourself, we also can't help you," the Supreme Court told Patidar leader Hardik Patel. Last year, Patel was convicted in a case of a riot during the Patidar agitations and was sentenced to two years in jail by a Gujarat sessions court. While his jail term was put in abeyance, his conviction was not stayed.

The Patidar leader joined the Congress on March 12 and later sought to get his conviction stayed without which he cannot file his nomination papers. However, the Gujarat High Court refused to stay Patel's conviction compelling him to move the Supreme Court, last week.

"Your sentence was suspended in August 2018. What were you doing since August last year? Why did you not challenge it then? And now you suddenly wake up and want an urgent hearing," the Supreme Court bench told Patel’s lawyers.

Now, Patel has decided to hit the road across India to campaign against the BJP in full swing.

“Patel has already been included in the Congress’ star campaigners’ list for five states. He will campaign in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat in a few days,’’ Nikhil Savani, Patel’s close aide, told News18.

The Congress has planned 18 rallies in different states where the party wants Patel to campaign, said Savani, adding that the leader will address public meetings wherever the party wants him to.

According to sources, Hardik Patel will also extensively campaign for his close aides who are contesting on Congress tickets.

Ever since the 25-year-old leader joined the Congress, he has become the defender of Nehru’s values. In fact, time and again, he has launched a frontal attack on the Modi-led NDA government on various issues, including unemployment.

Patel’s rallies and his regular tirade against the BJP through his social media accounts makes his presence felt. His Facebook has over 1.1 million followers while his Twitter account has 8.17 lakh followers.

When Hardik Patel had launched the Patidar quota agitation and formed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), many young leaders from across the state had joined his new outfit, including Lalit Vasoya, Lalit Kagathara, Geeta Patel.

“Vasoya is a Congress MLA from Dhoraji in Rajkot district and has been fielded from Porbandar Lok Sabha constituency. Kagathara is a Congress MLA from Tankara and the party has fielded him from Rajkot Lok Sabha constituency. Geeta will contest from Ahmedabad East Lok Sabha seat. All of them are close aides of Patel and were actively involved in the quota agitation. Now, all these three leaders are now contesting the Lok Sabha polls on Congress tickets. So, Patel will also campaign for them to ensure their victory,’’ another close aide of Patel told News18.

Patel, a native of Viramgam town near Ahmedabad, emerged as a Patidar leader in 2015 when he demanded reservation in education and jobs for his community members in the OBC category. He has been charged under various criminal sections under the Indian Penal Code, including the sedition.

Political observers say that a lot has changed in Patel’s outlook in four years. His quota stir had begun with the chant ‘remove reservation’. But, now he talks about the youth, unemployment, agrarian crisis and shares stage with human rights’ defenders and Dalit activists such as Jignesh Mevani. More importantly, he is the youngest ‘star campaigner’ of the grand-old party in the country.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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