Hardik Patel leads race to assume role of president of Gujarat Congress, say sources
Hardik Patel, who belongs to the powerful Patel community, is widely seen as Congress’ counter to BJP’s Patel-politics in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The face of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Hardik Patel, who joined the Congress in 2019, is leading the race for the top post, claimed various sources.
Hardik himself has, however, downplayed the speculation, tweeting, “I refute all the rumours which are making the rounds in the media. We will all work under the leadership of whoever is made GPCC president. We will work together to ensure a change of government in Gujarat”.
Ahmedabad analysts believe that Hardik Patel is being seen as Congress high command's choice for the post as the latter is keen on trying to infuse young blood in the grand old party ahead of the crucial assembly polls due in several states next year.
The informal induction of independent Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani in the party was done in keeping with Congress high command's vision for the party. Hardik Patel was reportedly instrumental in Mevani as well as former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar joining the Congress.
“Hardik Patel lives in the heart of the people. Whether he is made president or not is not important. Our aim is to strengthen the party and defeat BJP,” said Jayesh Patel, a close aide of Hardik Patel.
Hardik, who belongs to the powerful Patel community, is widely seen as Congress’ counter to BJP’s Patel-politics in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Hardik Patel rose to fame after launching an aggressive campaign against the BJP government, demanding reservation for his community which forms around 15 percent of the state’s total population.
Data suggests that Patel community can influence poll results in more than 75 seats out of 182 assembly constituencies in Gujarat.
Besides the caste and other factors, newly-appointed Gujarat Congress in-charge Raghu Sharma is also said to be in favour of Hardik Patel.
Sharma, who is Minister of Health and Family Welfare in the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan, has reportedly been tasked to complete the selection process the chief of the state Congress committee as early as possible, besides that of the new leader of opposition in the Gujarat assembly.
GPCC president Amit Chavda and leader of opposition Paresh Dhanani had quit after the party’s dismal performance in the local body elections earlier this year.
As per Gujarat watchers, Hardik Patel fits the scheme of the grand old party. He is suitable for short-term as well as long-term goals of the party which lost to the BJP with a very thin margin in the 2017 assembly polls.
While BJP won 99 seats, Congress won 77 seats – the highest in 32 years in the last assembly polls. Congress high command and Ashok Gehlot had campaigned extensively in the elections.
If Hardik Patel is appointed as party chief in the state, the Congress is likely to easily win over the Patel votes which deserted BJP in the Saurashtra region in the last election, believe many.
“With rising anti-incumbency against the BJP government, mainly due to COVID mismanagement, besides other reasons, Patel voters may favour the Congress this time…Hardik Patel may play the role of a catalyst. In that situation, Congress with the help of SC and minority voters – which mostly backed the party – can stake its claim to power next year,” said an analyst.