New Delhi: At this juncture, it is no exaggeration to say that the Hardik Patel factor proved a damp squib for the Congress party in Gujarat assembly elections. The Congress party heavily banked on the young firebrand Patidar leader to take on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his home state.
Last month, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Hardik Patel had predicted that the BJP wouldn’t win more than 70-75 seats in the House of 182 while the Congress and its allies would cross 100. He declared his support for the Congress party in the Gujarat polls. The Patidar leader said the Congress will include the extension of reservation benefit to Patidars in its election manifesto.
The young leader, arrested several times while agitating for reservation for the Patidar community, said “the jail now looks like a hostel to me” and questioned the BJP’s alleged attempt to make a CD of him with a woman a poll issue.
He said unemployment was a major election issue. “There were about 50 lakh people in need of jobs in Gujarat,” he had said.
In a well thought-out gameplan, the Congress walked the extra mile to accommodate the Patels who have firmly positioned themselves against the ruling BJP.
Many analysts say the Patidars roughly constitute 12 per cent of Gujarat’s population but wield uneven influence as they are economically, socially and politically powerful and can tilt the balance in a keenly fought election.
With Hardik joining the bandwagon, the Congress built an additional platform of Patidars, OBCs and Dalits. Rising OBC leader Alpesh Thakore joined the Congress and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani publicly extended it support. Congress leaders felt it was the broadest caste umbrella the party has ever managed in the state.
Hardik stuck to his strident anti-BJP line despite the state government withdrew cases against Patel activists.
The firebrand leader sent out subtle appeals for compromise in the interest of the larger cause, torn between rising ambitions of Patidar leaders and the Congress’s inability to accommodate them.
Hardik tweeted a poem by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that explained the need for cooperation to overcome the hurdles.
The last two lines – “Aag laga kar jalna hoga, kadam mila kar chalna hoga (Will have to light the fire and burn with it, will have to march together)”