The young sulking firebrand Patidar leader and working Gujarat Congress president Hardik Patel, who had kicked up a ruckus for allegedly being slighted and sending indications of quitting, has been finally won over.
The occasion was a religious function on the first death anniversary of his father Bharat Patel at his hometown Viramgam, which was attended by the veritable Who’s Who of the Gujarat Congress. His father had succumbed to Covid-19 last year.
AICC in-charge of Gujarat affairs Raghu Sharma, Gujarat Congress President Jagdish Thakor, Leader of Opposition Sukhram Rathwa, local Congress MLA Lakhabhai Bharwad, former Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, Dasada MLA Naushad Solanki and former state president Siddharth Patel and a host of others reached together. Sharma greeted Hardik with a hug on his arrival.
On the other hand, Hardik’s list of leading BJP invitees like Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Gujarat BJP President CR Paatil were conspicuous by their absence. From the BJP, the only prominent face present there was former Viramgam MLA Tejashree Patel, who had quit the Congress to join the BJP but lost.
A prominent religious leader from Vadtal Swaminarayan Sect Nautam Swami, tied a saffron turban and advised him to join a “Hindutvawadi” and told him that the BJP is the only one of its kind.
But the 29-year-old Hardik said, tongue-in-cheek, responded, “I already belong to the Raghuvanshi tradition and, as such, an heir of Love-Kush, there is not a bigger Hindu than me. Haven’t I installed a statue of Lord Ram here? I am always a Hindu and I don’t think I need to produce any evidence of this.”
It was like music to the ears of Hardik Patel and his band of supporters, when Raghu Sharma said, “We wish to form a Congress government in the 2022 Assembly elections. Hardik Patel will have a key role in it. He is the future and an inseparable part and a strong pillar of the Congress. He will continue to work for the party, his future is bright.”
Speaking with media persons, Hardik said it was a religious event, and far from political.
An elated Patel responded, “I may have differences with them, but that’s a separate matter. It cannot be a religious matter. I am very happy everyone came here. I have said earlier too that I will resolve whatever personal issues I may have with the party. My objective is the welfare of 6.5 crore people of Gujarat.”
Asked to comment on Raghu Sharma’s remarks that he is inseparable from the Congress, Hardik said, “That is what I have been demanding. I have never demanded anything, but work. If a party gives me that, then I will work like a train running at the speed of 110 (km/hour).”
About his issues with the Congress party, he said, “We will handle it, if not done already. And you may think that it has been resolved today… Today they have made a move and come. So, we will resolve it by talking to each other.”
The death anniversary events saw the recitation of Ram Dhun and Sundar Kand amid the presence of Hindu priests from different sects.
When Hardik was asked about the absence of CM Patel and BJP chief Paatil, he only said, “If they have not come, why should I be bothered? There was some speculation that the CM was coming. Because of that, roads were cleaned up, our entire society was cleaned up.”
Top sources said the apparent patch-up between Hardik and the Congress has followed with the fallout of political strategist Prashant Kishor with the central Congress leadership, who was averse to giving the top role of the late Ahmed Patel so soon. There was also a trust deficit about Kishor hobnobbing with adversary political parties in the South.
Secondly, Prashant Kishor was insistent on having Naresh Patel not only in a key role and could even be looked at as a chief ministerial face.
The inclusion and sudden rise of Naresh Patel, a Leuva Patel, would obviously dwarf Hardik Patel’s position as the Patidar leader in the party while it was his reservation agitation that brought dividends for the Congress in the 2017 assembly elections.