In what could be one of the biggest setbacks for Gujarat Congress before the Assembly polls, its state working president Hardik Patel, the poster boy of the Patidar agitation movement, is said to be resigning from the party soon.
Sources close to him said that "the impasse between Hardik and Congress has shown no signs of thaw" as Hardik would remain away from the party's three-day brainstorming session in Udaipur in neighbouring Rajasthan.
The Patidar leader, who has been openly criticising his partymen for being sidelined and ignored, is said to have made up his mind after being "snubbed" by the party's past president Rahul Gandhi earlier this week in Dahod, central Gujarat, where the two leaders were last seen together.
"It is just a matter of days, maybe a couple of days, and he will tender his resignation. It will be a miracle if he stays with Congress. It's been decided. He is not attending the Chintan Shibir in Udaipur city (which began today) despite being invited," a close aide of Hardik Patel told DH.
When contacted, a senior Congress leader said that he was not aware if Hardik Patel was invited to Udaipur.
He said, "There are about 400 party leaders gathering in Udaipur. Since Gujarat has an election, the party decided to include, apart from members of the All India Congress Committee, the state's past and present state president and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leaders in the shibir. I don't know if the working president (Hardik) was also invited."
Hardik refused to comment when DH reached out but sources close to him said that he "felt more isolated at Dahod rally where Rahul Gandhi didn't meet him personally and snubbed him as if there was nothing going on. Hardik is equally upset with Rahul mentioning the arrest of independent MLA Jignesh Mevani in his public speech while completely ignoring him (Hardik)."
The close aide further said, "In the past three years since he joined Congress, Rahul Gandhi didn't tweet even once on the arrest of Hardik Patel several times by Gujarat police, nor did he offer help to fight legal battles, unlike Mevani. There are 32 FIRs against Hardik including two cases of sedition, out of which only ten have been closed." However, sources close to him denied that he would be joining the BJP anytime soon.
Hardik's absence is set to hurt Congress considering his popularity among the young Patidar voters. Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which Hardik spearheaded during the 2015 quota agitation, is still active and has members across the Patidar dominated localities, especially in Saurashtra, North Gujarat and Surat. His ongoing spat with Congress hasn't stopped Hardik from attending community events as a guest speaker at various places.
Meanwhile, the Congress' hope of inducting influential Leuva Patidar leader Naresh Patel, to woo the community in Saurashtra, hangs in balance. Naresh Patel has yet not opened his card despite announcing several times that he would be taking a plunge in electoral politics soon. The dilly-dallying is said to have caused uneasiness in the Congress camp which is trying hard to bring Naresh Patel into the party fold.