Ahmedabad: The Congress attempted to get its caste equation right in poll-bound Gujarat on Saturday by offering election tickets to three fiery and charismatic young leaders — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani.
The offer received a bitter-sweet response with Patidar leader Hardik Patel rejecting it and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor announcing his decision to join the Congress after meeting party vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi. Dalit rights champion Jignesh Mevani remained non-committal.
In a day of hectic developments, the BJP, too, managed bring on board two Patidar leaders, Varun Patel and Reshma Patel, who promptly denounced former aide Hardik as a "Congress agent".
Responding to the Congress offer on Twitter, Hardik Patel, the convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), said he had no ambition to contest elections. “All we want is our rights and justice,” he tweeted within minutes of the ticket offer by Bharatsinh Solanki, the Gujarat unit chief of the Congress.
मुझे चुनाव नहीं लड़ना और चुनाव लड़ने का हमारा स्वार्थ भी नहीं हैं।हमें अधिकार चाहिए और न्याय,हम अहंकार के सामने लड़ रहें हैं।जीत हमारी होंगी— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) October 21, 2017
Commenting on Thakor's decision to join the Congress, Patel tweeted:
Best Of Luck Alpesh Thakor— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) October 21, 2017
Alpesh Thakore, who met Rahul Gandhi hours after being offered the ticket, said he would join the Congress on October 23. "Rahul Gandhi will visit Gujarat on October 23. I will join the Congress then," he told reporters in the national capital. Thakore was accompanied by senior Congress leader and former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.
In a day of fast-paced developments, the BJP, too, attempted to set its caste equation in order with Patidar leaders Varun Patel and Reshma Patel joining the party after meeting Amit Shah.
Varun and Reshma were among the prominent faces of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar quota agitation and remained critical of the ruling BJP during the stir.
After joining the BJP, the Patidar leaders told reporters that Hardik had become a "Congress agent" and 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. 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," Reshma Patel said.
"This agitation was not of Hardik Patel's alone. He is now acting like a Congress agent. Varun and I are of the opinion that the BJP would definitely fulfil our demands," she said.
According to Varun Patel, the Patidar community will never allow the Congress party to take over the reins of Gujarat by inciting Patel youths. "The BJP government (in the state) held talks with us in the past to resolve various issues. However, the Congress never held such talks, as they were not committed. We have decided to join BJP because we do not want to run the agitation by becoming Congress agents," he said.
Moments later, Hardik Patel said in a tweet he that will continue to fight for the people.
कनखजूराह के पैर टूट जाने के बावजूद भी कनखजुराह दोड़ेगा !! मेरें साथ जनता हैं।जनता का साथ है तब तक लड़ता रहूँगा !!— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) October 21, 2017
The one yet to reveal his cards is Jignesh Mevani, convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch. Speaking to News18, Mevani said he would meet representatives of other Dalit welfare organisations before taking a decision. “Yes, I did hear about the offer. We will sit with members of Dalit organisations over the next few days and take a call. However, I am certain about one thing — the current Gujarat government ought to be removed from power.”
Hitting out at the Congress, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the party was using the young leaders for “vote bank politics”.
Over the past couple of years, the three young leaders from the Patidar, OBC and Dalit communities have made quite an impact in Gujarat, drawing huge crowds to their rallies. OBCs account for about 51 percent of the Gujarat population and are likely to impact as many as 110 seats out of the 182 in Gujarat Assembly.