The battle of nerves between Gujarat Congress Working President Hardik Patel and the party leadership has snowballed into a full-scale war with Patel asserting that he had given much more to the party than the other way round.
Patel, who attended a meeting of Patidar leaders in Rajkot on Sunday in presence of Leuva Patel leader Naresh Patel, who is being wooed by all parties, to deliberate on the challenges before the community.
Speculations have already been doing the rounds that Hardik may even call it quits. The Rajkot meeting also had his previous Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) colleagues, Alpesh Kathiria and Dinesh Bhambhania. It is believed that the Patidar leaders are considering to form a pressure group of sorts for the Patidar community.
“Yes, I am angry with the party. There was no point attending the three-day Udaipur brainstorming session of the party unless the Congress addresses the issues raised by me. There was nothing for me to discuss there,” the firebrand Patel leader told mediapersons after the Rajkot meeting.
Hardik, 29, has been sulking for over three months with the grouse that the party was giving him a short shrift despite making him the Working President of Gujarat unit. He asserted on Sunday as well as earlier before the media that it was his Patidar agitation that brought Congress close to victory in the 2017 assembly elections with 80 seats, with three supporting Independents.
Sources close to him also claimed that Hardik was also upset that Rahul ignored him completely and didn’t give him any audience during his recent Dahod public rally, while he cited the example of fiery Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani who braved the Assam police and the Gujarat Government during his public address. As against this, Hardik has been facing 32 criminal cases, including two sedition cases against him, but the Congress party has not spoken out aggressively on this while it is going all out to back Jignesh Mevani. The Gujarat Government has only recently withdrawn as many as 25 cases against him, amid rumours that he may even join the BJP.
Gujarat Congress chief Jagdish Thakor retorted that Hardik only spoke through the media about whatever his issues and never directly to him. Party sources said the leadership is upset with Hardik for continuously venting his issues in public while he was made the Gujarat Working President.
Official sources said no leader at the state or the central level ever stopped Patel from taking his own initiatives as the working president or convening press conferences and issuing press releases.
“He always has had a free hand in deciding his or the State Congress unit’s course. Where is the question of not involving him anywhere in any major decisions or any strategy meetings,” a senior Congress leader told Vibes of India, requesting anonymity.