Days after quitting the Congress, Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Thursday joined the BJP in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar. Patel’s entry comes as a shot in the arm for the saffron party just months ahead of the Assembly elections in Gujarat. He was welcomed in the party by BJP Gujarat unit president C R Patil and former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel.
Ahead of joining the saffron party, Patel tweeted this morning saying that he would work as a “small soldier” under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and start a “new chapter”.
“Today, I am going to start a new chapter keeping in mind the interest of the nation, region, society and community. I will work as a small soldier in the development work of the nation being carried out under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said in the tweet.
Patel quit the Congress on May 18, writing a scathing letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi in which he launched an all-out attack on the party’s Gujarat unit and the senior leadership. In his resignation letter, Patel wrote that the Congress “only played to the role of a roadblock” over certain key issues in the country and was “merely reduced to opposing everything”.
The influential Patidar leader said that despite his constant attempts to steer the Congress in the right direction, the party has been continuously working against the interests of the country and society.
After publicly criticising the functioning of the Gujarat Congress in April, Patel had suggested that his options were “open”. He had also lavishly praised the ruling BJP for its “terrific decision-taking” leadership. However, back then, he had denied any plans to quit the Congress.
In an interview given to Divya Bhaskar newspaper, Patel praised the BJP over decisions such as abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and building of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, adding that he was also “a proud Hindu”.
Patel first came into limelight in 2015 when he spearheaded the movement demanding reservation for the Patidar community in government jobs and educational institutes. Although he joined the opposition Congress in March 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha election, contesting the parliamentary election was not possible for him due to his conviction in a rioting case.
He positioned himself as a vocal critic of the BJP and kept targeting the party and its governments in the state and at the Centre for being “anti-poor, anti-farmer and anti-youth”. Since he was convicted in rioting and arson cases, it affected his chances of contesting an election. However, the Supreme Court recently stayed his conviction.
Patel, who was charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 124(A) (sedition), 121 (A) (conspiracy to wage war against government) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), has been out on bail since 2016.
The BJP government has recently taken steps to withdraw several cases lodged against Patel and others related to the 2015 reservation agitation and the violence that broke out in which 10 persons, including a policeman, were killed and public properties and vehicles damaged.