After criticising Congress, Hardik praises BJP but says he is not joining the party
Days after criticizing his own party, Gujarat Congress leader Hardik Patel praised the ruling BJP for its "decision-making capacity", which he said is lacking in the leadership of the Opposition party's state unit.
Stating that he was "proud to be a Hindu", Patel, who is the working president of the Congress's state unit, denied speculation that he was joining the BJP, and said that if at all he needs to take such a decision, he would take the matter before people "with an open heart".
Assembly elections in Gujarat are due in December this year.
The Congress's plan to rope in Patidar leader Naresh Patel ahead of the state polls has apparently angered Hardik, who believes that his clout as the community leader will be over if the former joins the Congress.
Talking to the media persons on Friday, nearly a week after criticising the state Congress' "style of functioning", Patel said he has conveyed his opinion to the party high command, and that he hopes it will take a decision keeping the interest of the people of the state in mind.
"We will have to acknowledge that recent political decisions taken by the BJP show that it has a better political decision-making capacity. I believe that without praising it, we can at least acknowledge the truth. If Congress wants to become strong, it will have to improve its decision-making capacity," said Patel, who had joined Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
He, however, maintained that there is no question of him quitting the Congress (or joining the BJP, which he claimed was unfounded speculation). He said he was telling the truth, and thousands of party workers would agree with him that there is a lack of decision-making capacity in the state Congress leadership.
"I am not angry with any individual, but at the state leadership. I do not see that it is fulfilling its responsibilities like the way it should for the benefit of the state...When someone speaks the truth, people (within the party) interpret it differently - as that person is planning to leave the party," Patel added.
He said that people will start looking for an option if the party fails to become their voice and take their interests as their primary concern.
Asked whether he plans to the BJP, Patel answered in the negative.
"If ever I need to take such a decision for the benefit of the people, I will definitely let you (the media) know. I will take this matter before the people with an open heart," Patel said.
He also said that he is proud to be a Hindu because he carries the tradition of the "Raghuvanshi clan" as he comes from the lineage of Luv-Kush (Lord Ram's children), and is a devotee of Lord Ram, Lord Shiva and his Kuldevi.
"Our connection with the Hindu religion is not of the recent time. Since ages, we have been proud to be Hindu," he said.
Patel had spearheaded the Patidar community campaign in Gujarat in 2015 seeking reservations under the OBC category.
The widespread disenchantment of the numerically significant Patidar community from the ruling BJP had left its impact on the results of the 2017 Assembly election, wherein Congress won 77 seats as against 99 by the BJP in the 182-strong Assembly.
Meanwhile, reacting to Patel's praise for the BJP, the party's state unit president C R Paatil said that not only Patel, but several Congress leaders will acknowledge the manner in which the BJP's top leader and country's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the country forward.
"Entire country is influenced by the BJP ideology. BJP's top leader Narendrabai Modi, his way of functioning, has shown the country and the world by the manner in which he has taken the country ahead and worked for the all-round development since 2014.
"So it is but natural that many Congress leaders, including Patel and others must be influenced. Patel has shown the strength to acknowledge in the public, others may not be able to say it so openly..," he said.
Last week, Hardik Patel had expressed his displeasure over the Gujarat Congress' style of functioning and claimed that he was sidelined in the state unit and the leadership is not willing to utilise his skills. He had also alleged that the leaders of Congress's Gujarat unit were harassing him and want him to leave the party.
He had claimed that he had taken up the issue of his harassment with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi many times, but no action was taken to address his grievances.
He had expressed his grouse after he hinted at contesting elections after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a 2015 rioting and arson case.