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Gujarat quota leader Hardik Patel joins Cong; draws BJP's ire

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: March 12, 2019  | 23:22 IST

(Eds: Updates with BJP reaction) Ahmedabad, Mar 12 (PTI) Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel Tuesday joined the Congress in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Justifying his decision to enter active politics ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Hardik said he can now work for the six crore people of Gujarat in a better way. Hours after joining the opposition party, the 25-year-old Patidar quota spearhead came under severe attack from the ruling BJP, which said he stood "exposed" that he worked as a "Congress agent". After joining the Congress at its rally near Adalaj village in Gandhinagar district, Hardik in his address asked the gathering if it was the right decision. "Yes," the gathering replied. Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hardik said that following the Pulwama terror attack last month, the Congress postponed its rally slated for February 28 but the PM kept addressing gatherings across the country. The Patidar leader, whose agitation for inclusion of his community in the OBC category pitted him against the BJP government, hailed Gandhi as an "honest" person. "People ask me why I chose the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. I chose Rahul Gandhi because he is honest. He does not believe in working like a dictator," he said. On the BJP's charge of dynastic politics in the Congress, Hardik said there was nothing wrong if a politician's son or daughter wanted to join the same field to serve people. He asked Congress cadres to get their act together to defeat the BJP in the next month's Lok Sabha polls in Gujarat, where the party drew a blank in 2014. He later held a meeting with Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at the Ahmedabad airport. After the meeting, Hardik told reporters he will follow party orders on contesting polls. Speculation is rife that he will contest from the Jamnagar Lok Sabha seat. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani led the BJP's attack on Hardik alleging he "cheated on people" and now "stood exposed". "For him everything (that BJP government offered on the quota issue) used to be a lollipop. He should explain to the public what kind of lollipop (was offered by the Congress). We believe this is cheating with people. Hardik stands exposed," Rupani told reporters. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said Hardik always worked as a "Congress agent" to "fulfil his political ambitions". He was never serious in taking up the issues of his community, he claimed. "Hardik used to say he is not a political person, and works only for his community. With these claims, he created disturbance in Gujarat by dividing people in the name of community," Nitin Patel charged. He never worked for his community but tried to divide the Patidar community at the instance of Congress which also helped him financially, he said. "He was a part of the Congress's divide-and-rule policy and worked as its agent. Whatever we told about him in the past is coming true now," the deputy CM said. He claimed Hardik had never made himself available for meetings called to find a solution to the issue of reservation to the Patidar community in government jobs and educational institutions. "He did not even talk to the leaders of Patidar community organisations saying he does not believe in any religious or social organisations. "He put law and order in danger forcing police to use force that led to the killing of 14 youths (during the initial phase of the quota stir in 2015). All this just to fulfil his own political ambition," Nitin Patel claimed. Though Hardik had earlier announced he will fight the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, he now says he will jump in the poll fray only if the Congress wants. Gujarat, the home state of Modi, will vote in a single phase on April 23. The state has 26 Lok Sabha seats and all of them were won by the BJP in 2014. PTI PD KA PJT GK VT RSY TIR TIR

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