After Alpesh Thakor, BJP Accomplishes ‘Operation Hardik’

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Operation Hardik Over. BJP Successfully Taps Patidar Leader’s Isolation In Congress

| Updated: May 31, 2022 19:32

Pursuit of power and lure of the lucre could often result in collapse of all ideologies. This explains why Hardik Patel, once described as a firebrand lad who shook the mighty BJP in its own home, is on Thursday joining the same dispensation that he was determined to dismantle.

He often called Union Home Minister Amit Shah General Dyre, alleged that the BJP had offered him Rs 1,200 crore and was fiercely critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies, among many other things. In a U-turn now, Patel profusely praises the BJP Government, including its decision to revoke Article 370, and calls the Congress “anti-Hindu” and “anti-Gujarat”.
After OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, however, the genius of Narendra Modi has neutralised yet another of the three young Turks who together had brought the ruling party perilously close to defeat in 2017. Against a simple majority of 92 seats, the BJP managed 99  — for the first time getting reduced to double digits ever since it came to power in Gujarat in 1995.
It was Hardik Patel’s powerful agitation since July 2015 for quota for the Patidars that took the toll, ironically, of Gujarat’s first woman chief minister and that too a Patidar — Anandiben Patel. The subsequent shocking atrocity against Dalits in Una town in July 2016 only hastened this process, and saw the rise of aggressive Dalit youth Jignesh Mevani. And from this crisis emerged Alpesh Thakor, providing the Congress a unique opportunity to combine Patidars, OBCs and Dalits on a single platform — this was unprecedented in Gujarat’s political history.

While Jignesh has now embraced the Congress, with whose external support he had won the 2017 elections, the other two are done and dusted.

With only 7% Dalit voters in Gujarat, Jignesh is only a huge nuisance value for the BJP but not one who could upset the applecart of the ruling party that aspires to break Congress’ 1985 record of 149 out of 182 Gujarat Assembly seats in the December polls. 

The BJP won 7 out of 13 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes or Dalits in 2017. Already the Congress winner of 2012 Manibhai Vaghela from Vadgam, who had to vacate his seat to let Mevani contest as an Independent, has joined the BJP.   

Hardik Patel was already falling from the lofty stature he had acquired during the Patidar agitation when he could not get even municipal corporation election tickets for his supporters in February 2021. As a result, leaders from his very own Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) backed the Aam Aadmi Party in the Surat Municipal Corporation polls and 24 of its Patel candidates and three from OBC captured 27 seats in a House of 120, leaving the Congress with a zero against as many as 36 that it had won in the 2015 SMC polls.

It was for nearly a year that Hardik had been keeping the Congress on tenterhooks, constantly sulking that he had not been given his due whereas he was “singularly” instrumental for the Congress’ best performance of 78 seats, including of Mevani, in 2017.

Interestingly, all his complaints and the words he used to convey them had a striking similarity with that of Alpesh Thakor ahead of his quitting the Congress in 2019. Or of several others, who jumped the Congress ship to plunge into greener BJP pastures.

Though the Congress party does suffer from a systemic problem and lack of direction, Hardik Patel had little justification of being a crybaby given that he was the youngest Working President of the Gujarat Congress and a veritable poster boy.

On the other hand, the BJP doesn’t need a Patel face that Hardik could replace with since the party is full of them and a huge majority of Patidar voters are with the ruling party. The latest evidence of this was the local body elections in February-March 2021.

In rural areas, the BJP captured all the 31 district panchayats for which elections were held and the Congress clocked a nought. As against this, in the 2015 local body elections held under the shadow of the Patidar agitation, the Congress won as many as 24 out of 30 district panchayats in Gujarat. It is the rural areas in Gujarat that Hardik’s Patidar agitation had the maximum impact in 2015.

It is also known that all the 26 Lok Sabha seats were pocketed by the BJP in 2019 with even the lowest winning margin being 1.25 lakh in Dahod tribal seat. There were 15 BJP candidates who won with a margin of a mind-boggling 3.5 lakh votes and Gujarat BJP President CR Paatil setting a national record with a victory margin of nearly 7 lakh votes — more than even Narendra Modi.        

Sources claim the BJP is taking in Hardik to neutralise him with the same logic with which it had defanged Alpesh Thakor. Thakor won from Radhanpur on a Congress ticket in 2017 and lost from the same seat on a BJP ticket in the subsequent by-election. Patel joins the BJP hoping that the criminal cases against him will be dropped, enabling him to contest the upcoming elections on a BJP ticket and become an MLA.

Read More: Analysis: Assembly Election Results 2022

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