Congress seeks to widen anti-BJP Gujarat front, OBC leader joins party

Patidar leader Hardik Patel

Congress invites Hardik Patel to contest Gujarat elections

Alpesh Thakore, meanwhile, said he and his supporters would formally join the Congress at a massive rally in state capital Gandhinagar on Monday.

The development followed a call by Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki to the troika of young anti-BJP caste leaders: Hardik Patel, who led an agitation of the Patel community demanding quota, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and Thakor. "We invite Hardik, PAAS workers, leaders and Patidaar community to come and join the Congress".

He also questioned the timing of the Congress' offer.

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They joined the BJP after a meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and state party chief Jitu Vaghani during its parliamentary board meeting, which was also attended by BJP president Amit Shah. "We are fighting against the arrogant and we shall win". Though he dubbed Congress's invite a "political stunt", there was no mistaking his intent to work to ensure BJP's defeat.

Speaking to India TV here, Patel said that he is open to the officer but the "Congress party first should explain how it will give 20 per cent reservation and fulfil our demands". Contesting polls was never our intention. "People are with me, and I will continue to fight for them", he said. Immediately after joining the BJP, the Patel aides targeted their former leader and were all praise for the BJP. Those who crossed over include close aides of Hardik - Varun Patel, Reshma Patel, Mahesh Patel and Geeta Patel.

JD (U)'s lone MLA Vasava, whose party has formed the government in Bihar with the support of BJP, had voted for Ahmed Patel, who eventually won the election.

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Hardik Patel was quick to react to Solanki's proposal with a tweet that said that while he was not interested in contesting the polls but would go all out to get justice and rights for his community.

The moves and counter-manoeuvres reflected Congress's bid to erect a larger social coalition to take on the dominant BJP and the latter's attempt to fend off the attempt. In other reports, Patidar leaders Reshma Patel and Varun Patel have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, Patel on Saturday turned down the Congress' invitation to fight the Gujarat Assembly election jointly, saying the polls were not a BJP-Congress fight.

The party is also confident of securing the support of Hardik Patel, the 24-year-old leader leading the influential Patidar community's stir for reservation in education and jobs. Importantly, talking to TOI after meeting Rahul Gandhi, Alpesh said he was on the same page as patidar leader Hardik. "If even the prosperous patidars are raising such a strong voice, then it means it is a failed model", Thakor told TOI.

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