Hardik Patel, face of the Patidar agitation, was on Saturday appointed working president of the Gujarat Congress even as Amit Chavda remains president.
The decision to appoint Patel as working president even with a president is both interesting and significant.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, the trio of Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakore and Patel was seen as the shield and armour of Rahul Gandhi, Their combined strength ensured the party put up a good fight and did well. But after that, now only Patel remains the last man standing for Gandhi in the state. His attempt to fight the elections in 2019 was dashed after the court ruled against his right to contest.
While Patel has remained low-profile since then, he has been used by the Congress to campaign in the Lok Sabha and also in the party's agitations on issues like the CAA. There is a definite Rahul Gandhi stamp on Patel’s appointment as working president.
The appointment came on a day when at a meeting headed by Sonia Gandhi with Congress MPs, there was demand from many like Gaurav Gogoi and Kerala lawmakers that Rahul Gandhi be made party president. Sources say both Rahul and Sonia remained silent. But when Rahul resigned as president after the Lok Sabha polls, his grudge was that his party had resisted any change and that he had failed to have his way. Rahul has been demanding that his own people take key decisions and the seniors should give way. The grudge borne by both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi was also that seniors had not fully backed him on the Rafale jet campaign and so the party had failed to convince voters.
If and when Rahul decides to come back, he wouldn’t allow a repeat of this. Which is despite word of caution both Rahul and Priyanka are being aggressive on the PM. Digvijaya Singh made the point that this is the right way to go and those who have a problem should leave the party.
Patel's appointment is a Rahul stamp on the party and the two share a good equation. It also shows that a counter is being built to Ahmed Patel with whom Rahul doesn’t share a very good working equation. A counter to Ahmed Patel at a time when the once political secretary to Sonia Gandhi is facing tough time with repeated ED interrogations. The fact that till now none of the Gandhis have yet spoken out for Ahmed Patel shows the slow distancing from him. Which is why Rahul and the Congress top leadership has now found a new Patel on whom they want to pitch their battle against the Modi-Ahah duo. With Patel's appointment, many messages have been sent out to the party and seniors.