A day after resigning from the Congress, Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Thursday said he “wasted” three years of his life in the party, but maintained that he has not taken a decision yet on joining any other political outfit, be it the ruling BJP in Gujarat or the new entrant AAP.
Addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad, 28-year-old Patel hailed the BJP for its efforts in the Ayodhya case and also appreciated it for abrogating Article 370, while also accusing the leaders of the “visionless” Congress of being biased against the Gujarati people.
Ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls due later this year, Patel on Wednesday resigned from the Congress, claiming top leaders of the party were distracted by their mobile phones and that Gujarat Congress leaders were more interested in arranging chicken sandwiches for them.
Asked if he would join the BJP or the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Patel on Thursday said, “I have not taken any decision as of now on joining any political party, be it the BJP or AAP. Whatever decision I will take, it will be in the interest of the people.”
According to Patel, his main contention was that he was never given any meaningful work despite being the working president of the state unit. He was appointed to the post in July 2020.
“It is a fact that Congress benefited immensely in the 2017 Assembly polls due to the Patidar quota agitation (led by him). However, I was not given any responsibility even after making me working president. I was not even invited to the key meetings of the party. It never arranged my press conference during the last three years,” he said.
In the 2017 polls, the BJP had managed to retain power but its seat tally came down to 99 from 115 in 2012, while the Congress had won 77 seats, improving its tally by 16 seats in the 182-member House.
“Some 7-8 leaders have been running the show for the last 25 years in Gujarat. Second cadre leaders are not given any importance. Party just believes in the theory of use and throw. During the last 7 years, nearly 122 Congress leaders had left the party, including 30 MLAs and nearly 40 former MLAs,” said Patel.
Hitting out at the Congress, he said the party never speaks anything on the issues concerning Hindus, such as the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) or on the issue of a ‘Shivling’ (said to be) found in a mosque in Varanasi.
“Ruling BJP’s efforts in the Ayodhya case were worth appreciating. I had welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict and my family even donated Rs 21,000 for the construction of Ram Mandir. BJP also did a good job by scrapping Article 370. I will not hesitate to appreciate what is worth appreciating,” he said.
According to him, the Gujarat Congress is too much into “caste-based politics” as he claimed that poll tickets as well as party posts are given solely on that criteria. “They used to discuss how the party can be benefited if Patidar voters are further divided into Leuva and Kadva sub-castes. I regret that I wasted my three years in this party,” Patel said.
Citing the examples of Patidar leaders Vitthal Radadiya and Narhari Amin, who had quit the Congress and later joined the BJP in the past, Patel alleged that the Congress always did injustice to the leaders from the community and sidelined them whenever they became powerful.
The former Patidar quota agitation spearhead claimed that the Congress had no vision and that leaders of the party were biased against Gujarati people, like “Adani and Ambani”.
Patel also slammed Gujarat Congress in-charge Raghu Sharma for his statement that he (Patel) was having some sort of backdoor dealing with the ruling BJP about the withdrawal of cases against the quota agitators.
“So, open discussions with the government about withdrawal of cases is now considered as dealing? Why does Congress never help us in that regard? If tomorrow, the government agrees to Jignesh Mevani’s demand for the withdrawal of cases against Dalit agitators, will he be accused of joining hands with BJP?” asked Patel.
Referring to the Congress’s Chintan Shivir held recently in Rajasthan, Patel said the party needs to do chinta (worry) instead of chintan (brainstorming) as it lacks any vision as well as formula to win the elections.
On Wednesday, in his resignation letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, he had accused the party’s top leadership of behaving as if they hated Gujarat and Gujaratis, and said he was quitting as the state Congress working president and from the party’s primary membership.
Patel had gained prominence in 2015 after he led the agitation seeking reservation for the Patidar community in the state.
(With PTI inputs)