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Hardik's full support to 'Lady Gandhi'

Hardik Patel with Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna on Friday. Picture by Shyamal Maitra

Calcutta: Hardik Patel, the Patidar leader from Gujarat, on Friday hailed Mamata Banerjee as "Lady (Mahatma) Gandhi", drew parallels between her and Indira Gandhi and pledged full support to the Bengal chief minister.

Patel's unequivocal support after his meeting with Mamata at Nabanna would be music to the chief minister's ears amid her efforts to play a pivotal role in a pan-India coalition of non-saffron camp forces.

"Coming to this holy soil of Netaji (Subhas Chandra Bose) and Swami Vivekananda for a programme of The Telegraph tomorrow, I had the privilege of meeting Lady Gandhi. I have only read about Mahatma Gandhi, but Mamata Didi comes across to me as a Lady Gandhi," said Patel who had received a congratulatory call from the Trinamul chief after the Gujarat results.

Patel is in the city to take part in the Calcutta Club The Telegraph National Debate on Saturday.

Patel had campaigned against the BJP in the Gujarat Assembly polls last year. Since the 24-year-old couldn't contest the Gujarat elections, Congress candidates backed by the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti did well enough to jolt the saffron juggernaut in its bastion.

Patel was with Mamata for over 70 minutes at Nabanna and both discussed various issues pertaining to "inclusive politics" and development.

On her way out of Nabanna, Mamata, too, lavished praise on her "younger brother".

"He is very good, very political, very sensitive also. He is fighting the good fight for the people of Gujarat. I wish him all the best," she said. "I requested him to join politics. It will be the right choice if he does," she added.

Mamata has been repeatedly making public statements in favour of a formation where regional political satraps play a big role, winning handsomely in their own backyards and then join forces in Delhi.

"She says if the BJP is to be defeated in 2019, there has to be collective leadership against the BJP," said a Trinamul leader.

He said while she understood the importance of the Congress in such a set-up, her ties with the 132-year-old party had been testy since a recent friction over strategy in Tripura for the coming Assembly elections. There is a buzz that though Mamata was keen on entering an alliance with the Congress to oust the Left Front and keep the BJP at bay, a seat-sharing truck was not struck.

Patel stressed the need for the likes of the Congress and Trinamul to come together for defeating "forces trying to break" the country. He said he would campaign for Mamata in Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to reach out to the Gujarati community.

Asked if he would back Mamata for a larger national role around the Lok Sabha polls, Patel said it should be done "without hesitation".

"She is a woman with a lifetime of experience in mass movements. She is wise, she is a veteran in popular struggle.... She should be promoted and brought to the fore," he said.

"After Indiraji (Gandhi), if there is any woman who has risen to power through struggle, she's the one. I invited her to come to Gujarat and inspire women. She said she would and said we would work together there," he added.

Patel said he was impressed with what he saw in Bengal - which he said was nothing like what's said of the state - and promised to work together to "build a better India".

Asked if a political pact was discussed, Patel said he was invited to join Trinamul when he decided to enter politics. "She told me clearly that her party's doors were wide open for me whenever I decide to join politics.... She said I could run it (Trinamul) in Gujarat. I said when I decide to join, I will certainly take her advice," he said.

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