BJP’s Viramgam candidate and Patidar quota activist Hardik Patel, who is currently campaigning for the upcoming Gujarat elections is still cross with his former boss Rahul Gandhi. Patel, who was expelled from Congress for anti-party activities in May, 2022 said, “Rahul Gandhi has no vision. Elections are happening in Gujarat and he started his Bharat Jodo from down south. He should focus on Congress Jodo instead of Bharat Jodo,” he said in an exclusive interview to The New Indian team that joined him during his campaign trail in his constituency.
During the Patidar movement in 2015, Hardik was slapped with over 30 cases, which included two cases with charges of sedition. At his peak popularity, he campaigned for Congress in 2017 Assembly elections. Later he joined the Congress in 2019. He could not contest the General elections of 2019 due to court cases against him. Congress ousted him from the party on account of anti-party.
Spelling out the changes in him since his activism days he says, “That was a different time. I was an agitator back then. But now I am coming amid the people as a prospective representative and trying to solve their problems. But even now I am capable of going back to my 2015 avatar and bringing together a bunch of protesters if the needs of my constituency are not met,” he said. .
Viramgam, located in Ahmedabad district consists of three talukas – Virangam, Detroz and Mandal explaining his election slogan of “Vivek thi viramgam, Man thi mandal, Dil thi detroz, Kanth thi Nalkantho”. The constituency has been held by Congress for the last two terms. Viramgam is known not to vote on caste lines.
In 2012, Tejashree Patel contested from Congress and defeated BJP’s Pragji Patel. In 2017, she switched to BJP but voters didn’t accept her and opted for Congress’ OBC leader Lakhabhai Bharwad.
So far, Viramgam has given MLAs from different castes, like Tejashree Patel (Patidar), Daudbhai Patel (Muslim) in 1980, Kamabhai Rathod (Karadia Rajput) in 2007 and Lakhabhai Bharwad (OBC).
This is what makes Hardik’s candidature from the constituency interesting given his origins as a caste leader who spearheaded a violent agitation against the state government in 2017. So, will his candidature alienate other communities? “When you aim to become a people’s representative you have to follow constitutional norms. When you become an MLA you take an oath to not be partial towards anyone, and work for the welfare of everyone equally,” he said.
When asked if people who were part of the agitation with him feel betrayed, he said, “I didn’t contest elections when I was fighting for the cause of reservation. It was after the agitation was over that I joined politics. Now there is a 10 per cent reservation for EWS.”
The BJP has projected the Supreme Court clearing the 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) as a decision that would help Patidars from poor families.
Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held in Gujarat from 1 to 5 December 2022 in two phases, to elect 182 members of 15th Gujarat Legislative Assembly. The votes will be counted and the results will be declared on 8 December 2022.