Ahmedabad: Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor’s resignation from the party will have no impact on its prospects in Gujarat in the Lok Sabha elections, Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel has said.
Patel, who emerged on the scene with a massive protest demanding reservation for Patidars in 2015, recently joined the Congress.
“Idhar-udhar jaane se prabhav janta par nahi padta (Going here and there won’t have an impact on voters,” Patel told ThePrint in an interview. “Janta ki himmat our kaam bada important hota hai [sic],” he said, suggesting that a candidate’s work and courage were more important for the public.
“Time will tell,” he added. “it’s not right to comment on the outcome right now.”
Ahead of the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections, local youths Alpesh Thakor, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani had captured the imagination of the young with their campaigns — while Patel became the face of his community’s anger over caste-based reservations, Thakor and Mevani sought to promote the rights of oppressed communities such as the Dalits following reports of attacks on them, like the July 2016 Una assault where a family of seven was beaten up for skinning a dead cow.
However, things have changed drastically since: Patel, who was not part of any political party, has joined the Congress; Thakor, who won the Congress the Radhanpur assembly seat in 2017, has quit the party; and Mevani seems to have cut himself off Gujarat politics.
When asked whether he was disappointed that he won’t be able to contest the Lok Sabha elections, Patel said: “The high court did not give me permission. I wanted an urgent hearing in the matter but the court (Supreme Court) felt otherwise.”
Said to have been eyeing a Congress nomination from Jamnagar, Patel had moved the Gujarat High Court for a stay on his conviction — handed out by a sessions court in 2018 — in a case of rioting and arson stemming from the Patidar stir. But the court rejected his plea last month.
He had then moved the Supreme Court earlier this month, seeking an urgent hearing on his appeal, but the court refused the request.
“I also thought, elections keep coming and going, it’s a nation of elections,” he added. “I am only 25, so where is the hurry or pain in this? I’m the new India and will fight elections after five years.”
‘Giving the young a chance’
He said that Congress president Rahul Gandhi had been instrumental in getting a number of young people the opportunity to contest the parliamentary election.
“At IIMs and IITs, we have lectures that more youth should come into politics. I’m sure a number of youngsters will come into Parliament and they will fight for the people, for the farmers and raise their issues,” he added.
“We need a neta who can fight on all issues. The average age of politicians in 2014 in Parliament was 56. The Congress president is changing that. He tried to even show his trust in me but the court said no,” he said. “So, imagine, a 25-year-old was going to contest the Lok Sabha elections.”
‘Rahul will be PM’
Confident of the Congress’ victory, Patel said Gandhi will be the prime minister. “I can say with surety that the Congress will come into power and Rahul will become the PM and the economy will then be on the right path,” he added.
He also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for using emotional appeals to garner votes rather than talking about “real issues”.
“Rahul believes in binding the nation. He has never asked for votes on account of the sacrifices of his father or grandmother,” he added. “Modi is trying to use emotions. He is taking all the money from Gujarat and spending it throughout the country on elections,” Patel said.
The young leader will concentrate on campaigning in Gujarat till 23 April, when the state’s 26 seats vote, and will move to other parts of the country after that, he told ThePrint. The Congress president and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will also be campaigning in Gujarat, he added.
Criticising the Modi government in the state, he said traders, youth and farmers would not give them a second chance.
“(Chief Minister) Vijay Rupani had recently disrespected the martyrs (those who seek evidence for Balakot strikes are ‘Pakistani’, Rupani said earlier this week). He is not an Indian,” Patel said. “He was born in Burma. (BJP president) Amit Shah had a role in making him the chief minister.”