Sunday, 2 April, 2023
HomePoliticsHardik Patel, now in BJP, says Congress attacks Gujarati industrialists & Modi...

Hardik Patel, now in BJP, says Congress attacks Gujarati industrialists & Modi to appease Muslims

Ex-Congressman Patel also tells media to ask new party chief Kharge if Gandhi family still calls the shots & blames the Congress for relying on 'communal politics' in Bilkis Bano case.

Text Size:

Ahmedabad: Patidar leader and ex-Congressman Hardik Patel, who joined the BJP this June, seems to have no love lost for his former party, criticising its style of functioning and accusing it of playing communal politics in Gujarat just to appease “Muslim voters”.

“The Congress is not interested in working for the people of Gujarat. Time and again, they resort to bad-mouthing the state’s industrialists, Hindus, [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] and Amit Shah just to appease Muslims,” Patel said. 

In an interview to ThePrint Thursday at his modest office in Ahmedabad’s Viramgam, Patel also spoke about why he quit the Congress, his role in the BJP, the Patidar agitation, the Morbi tragedy, and the release of 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case.

During his stint in the Congress, which he had joined in 2019, Patel had been a vocal critic of the BJP, but he now says he had always supported the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

“[Congress] had a problem with the removal of Article 370 and the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi verdict [both in 2019]. I can never compromise on this. I’m a Hindu and have religious sentiments. I also wanted the removal of Article 370 and the Ram Temple to be built in Ayodhya,” he said.

These sentiments, he claimed, prompted him to resign as working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) in May this year and to join the BJP shortly afterwards, months ahead of the state’s assembly elections, which will be held in two phases, on 1 and 5 December. 

The last time state polls were held, in December 2017, Patel had backed the Congress, and was widely seen as having helped the party dent the BJP’s influence. In a close contest, the Congress had managed to win 77 out of 182 assembly seats. But in his 2022 resignation letter to the Congress’s top leadership, Patel complained that the party “lacked seriousness”. 

On the Congress’s charge that his resignation letter was a “script” written by the BJP owing to the mention of Article 370 and the Ram Temple in it, Patel said, “Jab Bharatsinh Solanki ne kaha hi Ram Mandir ki eeton par kutte peshab karte hain, tab mera jo sahi jawab tha wo logon ke samne aa gaya tha (My response became known to the public when Bharatsinh Solanki said dogs urinate on bricks sent for construction of Ram Temple).”

In May, former state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki had drawn flak for his remarks that the BJP had been “duping people in the name of religion” and that “dogs urinate” on bricks sent by devotees for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Patel, who was no longer with the Congress and yet to join the BJP at the time, had termed Solanki’s remarks as an “insult to Hindus”. 

Also Read: In 2017, Patidar stir cost BJP in Saurashtra. Now, it hopes AAP will dent Congress vote there

‘Ask Kharge’

Asked about the working style of the Congress’s central leadership, Patel said anyone with a post would demand the freedom to work in the interests of constituents, hinting that this was not possible in the party. 

“You should ask Mallikarjun Kharge, the newly appointed president of the Indian National Congress, if his influence and power will remain or will the Gandhi family continue to run the party,” he said.

Patel had told ThePrint in April that “groupism” within the Congress hindered his efforts to work for the betterment of the people of Gujarat.

On whether the BJP is any different, Patel said the party assigns meaningful work to its leaders. “In the last three months, I have been involved in several projects including working with the management of the (BJP) Gaurav Yatra, working with central ministers, and working on the ground in Viramgam. In politics, work is worship,” he said.

Patel added that he is satisfied with the work carved out for him since the BJP is adept at ensuring the implementation of its welfare schemes at the grassroots level.

‘Will prove myself again in 2022’

Patel, who rose to prominence as the face of Patidar agitation for Other Backward Class (OBC) status and reservations in 2015, has faced some criticism for his decision to join the party he once opposed tooth and nail. But Patel believes he has proven his mettle and that there is no threat to his appeal among the people of Gujarat.

The Patidars are traditionally an agrarian community, comprising about 13 per cent of Gujarat’s population but wielding disproportionate influence in business as well as politics in the state.

Taking some of the credit for the formulation of  10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), he said the Patidar agitation helped disadvantaged families find a place in workplaces and educational institutions across India. The Supreme Court Monday upheld the validity of this reservation, which is expected to benefit the Patidar and other communities. 

“I proved myself in 2017 and I will prove myself again this year. I don’t have a politician father to speak in my support, I have worked hard for the people of the state and it is their belief in my work that has helped me prove myself,” Patel said. 

On Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani’s claim that Patel joined the BJP under pressure, he dismissed the charge by saying that such allegations are common in politics but they should have some element of truth to them.

Mevani is the Independent MLA from Vadgam and a working president of the Gujarat Congress.

“Hardik should not be linked with settlement (compromise). I did not settle during the Patidar agitation in 2017, I will not settle in 2022,” said Patel.

On Morbi tragedy & Bilkis Bano case

Hardik Patel also responded to the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) criticism of PM Modi for “changing his dress twice” during his visit to Morbi in Gujarat after the collapse of a suspension bridge there claimed 135 lives.

“People raising these allegations don’t eat food or change clothes? Do they keep wearing the same clothes for four days? It is highly insensitive of them to make a human tragedy of such a scale an election talking point,” he said.

Once re-elected, the BJP government in Gujarat will take the strictest action against those responsible for the Morbi tragedy and ensure that such incidents do not occur again, Patel added.

Asked about the early release of 11 men convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case, Patel said whatever happened with her was “unfortunate” and that it is up to the Supreme Court to conduct a final review of the decision. The Gujarat government, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, had disclosed last month that its decision to grant early release to 11 convicts was approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

“This incident is only being given importance because the victim is part of a certain minority. It is unfortunate that the Congress is doing this to widen the rift between Hindus and Muslims further,” said Patel. The Congress, he claimed, has been relying on “communal politics” to retain its “25-30 per cent” of vote share in Gujarat.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Not just Modi, Gujarat BJP’s banking on CR Paatil’s ‘82-lakh army’ to micromanage state polls


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular