Almost a week after his exit from Congress, Patidar leader Hardik Patel seems to have kept his options open to join a party in the near future. In an interview with The Indian Express, Patel said that he would play an "important role" in the Assembly elections due later this year.
Patel resigned from the Congress on Wednesday, months ahead of Gujarat polls, criticising the grand old party's state leadership. Patel was made the working president in July 2020, a year after he was inducted into the party.
Hardik has been all praises for BJP lately, but in the interview, he also praised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for having a "better" electoral strategy than the Congress. However, he said that he wasn’t clear if he would join AAP.
Congress leaders have slammed Hardik for his sudden praises for BJP. Recently, he 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.
However, Congress hit back saying that Patel quit the party as he was afraid that he might have to go to jail in sedition cases registered against him.
In the interview, Patel also slammed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for siding with MLA Jignesh Mevani. He mentioned that it really upset him. “Obviously. Why not? I have been in jail for 10 months, six months in exile from Gujarat, and I was facing 32 cases. You have started the politics of caste, isn’t it? You can see a person who was convicted for three months in a case under section 188, and you can see a person who went to jail for nine days…but you could not see my pain?”, he told the publication.
While the Congress had benefited from Patel's agitation seeking reservation for Patidars in 2017, his community's support for the party dwindled after he joined the Congress in 2019. Congress lost the 2017 Gujarat elections, falling just short of nine seats in the 182-member Assembly, and was then being seen as having the potential to dethrone the BJP, which has been in power in the state for over two decades.
Patel, who once led the Patidar community's agitation for reservation, faces nearly 25 criminal cases in Gujarat, including sedition FIRs, registered one each in Ahmedabad and Surat.