Hardik Patel interview: ‘I believe people of Gujarat do not like BJP, but they do not vote for Congress because it is not aggressive’

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In March it is going to be two years since Hardik Patel, 27, joined the Congress celebration in presence of its then president Rahul Gandhi. Facing 34 felony circumstances associated to the quota agitation he launched below the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) he based, of which 17 pertain to violation of prohibitory orders and two to sedition, in 2018 Patel was convicted for 2 years in a case of rioting and stays on bail, barred from getting into Mehsana district and from stepping exterior of Gujarat. None of this has stopped Patel from campaigning on his personal for the native panchayat elections and municipality elections, due on February 28.

On the sidelines of a kisan mahapanchayat in Ravapar of Morbi district, he spoke to The Indian Express on his function within the Congress, association with the PAAS, and plans to contest election sooner or later. Excerpts

What is the distinction between Hardik Patel of 2015 and 2021?

Back in 2019 I used to be with no look after anybody and aggressive, because it was one motion, solely speaking about reservation. Now it’s not in regards to the group however about well being, training, employment and of the folks, of constructing the celebration win, of strengthening the candidate and the Congress. But there isn’t any different change, I do the identical issues. Back then with no place, designation we introduced success to the motion. Today, I’ve a place, and with a celebration, my duty is far greater and I’ve to carry extra success.

What adjustments have come about in you after becoming a member of the Congress?

I’ve totally assimilated ideology of the Congress. When I went to jail simply earlier than the lockdown, I took with me Jawaharlal Nehru’s ebook (Discovery of India), which the previous PM wrote from jail, an autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi and a ebook on Sardar Patel by (VP) Menon and skim them. So, I’ve understood the ideology of the Congress very properly and how one can dwell with it.

Why can’t you contest elections?

I’m going through a two-year conviction. If you see my political profession over the past 5 years, you’ll find it awkward. For the final 5 years, I’ve not gone to Mehsana district. In the sedition case, the Gujarat High Court despatched me out of Gujarat and, in the identical case, when I didn’t seem within the classes court docket, they despatched me to jail. When I obtained bail, it was with the situation that I couldn’t exit of the state.
Politically, this can be a harassment, as not one of the circumstances have been withdrawn in opposition to me.

When I used to be 24 years outdated and was making ready for my sister’s wedding ceremony in 2017, (West Bengal CM) Mamata (Banerjee) didi known as me and stated, ‘Hardik, I want to send you to the Rajya Sabha’. I instructed her this isn’t my age. From that day on my temptation for a political place went away.

You stated that until 2014 you voted for BJP

Before 1985, all of the Patidars have been with the Congress. Till 2007, Patels have been aggressively with the BJP. In 2007, when Gordhanbhai (Zadafia) refused to take up ministership, the Patels obtained divided. Sixty per cent Patidars joined with the Congress and 40 per cent stayed with the BJP. Because they eliminated Keshubhai Patel as CM, our household stayed away from the BJP.

Is it true that your father was related to Anandi Patel?

Yes. When in 1995-96, Anandiben contested from Mandal (constituency), my father had a enterprise of submersible pumps for fields. He would roam across the villages and everybody knew him. Some villages in Mandal wouldn’t even permit the BJP to enter these villages. We had a Commando Jeep. Anandiben got here to my father looking for assist to realize entry into these villages. But my father was by no means with the BJP nor did he ever struggle elections for BJP.

What is your equation with PAAS?

Ten or 15 days earlier than I joined Congress in 2019, I appointed Alpesh Katheriya (of Surat) the PAAS convenor. Before that 10 per cent reservation had been introduced for the poor and center class. My andolan was restricted to this demand.

Today, I’m a member of PAAS. But PAAS was restricted to the motion for quota, which is now not there. So, the organisation naturally ought to have been disbanded however our folks insisted on protecting PAAS until the martyred youths obtained justice. It is pure then that at the moment when I’m with the organisation it will possibly have calls for of me. PAAS sought a ticket from me for Dharmik Malaviya, which I obtained cleared. But there have been some native points, and since I’m solely a working president (of the state Congress), I don’t have a mandate. I used to be not there in a single screening (for tickets), no person requested me through the ticket distribution. So, I stated nothing.

Do you suppose as a working president it is best to have been concerned?

What is the celebration guideline, what’s the energy I don’t know. As the working president it is best to have instructed us that your crew is powerful in Surat, in Saurashtra. We have come from a motion. I’ve toured 6,000 villages of Gujarat and I do know the state of affairs on the bottom. In Surat, the largest mistake is of our Pradesh (state) leaders. Had they requested me what’s to be completed, I’d have given them the best recommendation.

They didn’t ask you?

No.

Do you give credit score for 2015 leads to Surat to PAAS?

In 2015. the whole leads to Gujarat, be it of the taluka, district or nagarpalika, mahanagarpalika, was solely due to the agitation and that the celebration should settle for. I inform the celebration leaders again and again that that you must perceive the individuals who have come from the agitation as a result of we’re touring. Even at the moment, my excursions are continuously on. Not a single of my excursions have been determined by the PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) nonetheless I’m on my toes, as a result of I need to strengthen the celebration, whether or not another person does or not. They (Congress leaders) is perhaps wanting to drag me down, push me and produce me down. Let them, I’ll arise once more. Because within the agitation, the BJP would carry me down and I’d stand up. Many occasions, I inform the celebration, that once I joined the Congress, I assumed Congress will make the most of me. Even there I really feel that my Pradesh excessive command, the state in-charge (prabhari), has failed. Organise my conferences, I’m able to do 25 conferences a day. You inform me ‘from today you have to do a 500 km padyatra’, assign me one thing, I inform the celebration many times, give me some work. But utilise me not less than in areas the place I’ve a presence, the place I’ve my crew, the place I’ve a community.

A rally by celebration’s state chief Amit Chavda obtained cancelled on Feb 19. Do you suppose it is best to have gone as an alternative?

They requested me if I’d go only a day earlier than. But I had already programmes lined up seven days in advance. Had they instructed me at first of the election that it’s a must to do 25 rallies in Surat, this might not have been the end in Surat. I’m not simply speaking about Surat, additionally in regards to the different municipal firms. See, the Congress should do atmamanthan (introspection) and overtly communicate up the place they failed, or have been weak. We made a theme tune (for campaigning), how many individuals heard it? You put out one of the best manifesto in final 25 years however didn’t take it to the folks. Which chief spoke of the manifesto? See, the 6.5 crore folks of Gujarat don’t settle for BJP whether or not anybody believes or not.

You have been saying persons are making an attempt to carry you down…

You (Congress leaders) will not be organising any of my occasions. Why are you not doing it?

You suppose that is intentional?

Possible. I’m doing so many conferences, such big crowds come to my conferences, then why don’t you organise my conferences? If you’re the celebration’s (working) president and you’re a robust particular person, you inform me go do 10 rallies. Why are you (Congress leaders) not doing this for me?

So, not one of the campaigns for the civic polls have been mounted by the celebration?

Not a single one within the final 10 days.

How many sabhas have you ever held?

27 (in final 10 days).

What might be the explanation? Have you taken this problem to your nationwide management?

I don’t do that fixed complaining or making representations. I don’t consider in complaining, I consider in proving myself and I’m doing it my approach. Today, I’ve toured Morbi, Rajkot and Ahmedabad districts, I’ve to show to myself whether or not I’m finishing up the duty given to me by Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, regardless of whether or not I’ve the facility to take selections or not.

Did you ever consider quitting the Congress?

Never.

Do you remorse becoming a member of it?

Not one bit. I’ve joined the Congress, whose management comprised of Sardar, (Mahatma) Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. That is evident. The celebration that was led by Subhash Chandra (Bose), Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, that’s the celebration I’ve joined.

What is the explanation for AAP successful in Surat and AIMIM in Ahmedabad?

One of the largest causes is the low voter turnout within the municipal company… If the voting will increase, we will consider that it has elevated in assist of the celebration in energy. It will not be that the lower in voting means (folks) will not be in assist of the opposition. It means folks don’t just like the celebration in energy… (With) the results of AAP in Surat and Rajkot, I clearly consider that individuals of Gujarat don’t just like the BJP, however on the identical they don’t vote for Congress as a result of it’s not aggressive.

AAP was aggressively doing programmes in Surat for 2-Three months and folks started to consider that this celebration can put our points forth. And the struggle over tickets that occurred, folks thought that is how the Congress is. In Rajkot, AAP obtained second highest vote share, it is because for the final 2-Three months, the celebration was working as an aggressive opposition in Rajkot.

Also, there’s a idea being circulated that Congress is a celebration of Muslims and Dalits, which is part of the BJP technique, due to which Muslims have additionally began considering that no matter folks would possibly say, we’re not getting something from the Congress, (Asaduddin) Owaisi says the identical factor. He solely speaks in opposition to the Congress, doesn’t communicate in opposition to BJP.

If you need to counter all these, solely come out on the streets and make your heads bloodied, struggle in opposition to the folks in energy, be bathed in blood. Not by telling the SP (superintendent of police), ‘we will walk that much then you can detain us’. No. Let the SP do no matter he desires, if it’s a must to march to the governor’s place, then march! Be aggressive. For whom are we doing this? for the folks. If we do good work for the folks, they may vote for us. If you do seva (service) you’re going to get meva (fruit).

Is there a void felt of Ahmed Patel?

He performed an important function within the nation’s political community, he was seen as near Madam Sonia, he noticed a number of covert operations by way of. One factor is evident that the 219 seat that have been gained (by BJP) uncontested have been by mismanagement. There isn’t any chief within the state who would now name (a distressed candidate) and say – why do you are worried? And if the candidate stated he had no cash to struggle the elections in opposition to the highly effective BJP and so he was withdrawing, Ahmedbhai would say, ‘Don’t fear, I’ll inform just a few leaders that can assist you out’. These he would deal with, deal with the disaster.

Will you contest elections after this two-year conviction interval is over?

As a working president, if the celebration desires to utilise me all through the state for campaigning within the 2022 (Assembly) elections, then I don’t need to struggle the elections. We need to type the federal government. But if you happen to don’t need to utilise me, make me sweat, then inform me, I’ll struggle an election. I’ve not come right here to do electoral politics. I’ve come right here to type a authorities. Once that’s completed all the pieces else will observe.

You will not be as energetic on social media as 2015. Why?

The environment from 2015 to 2017 was spontaneous. For occasion, if I had a gathering in Morbi, I’d ask somebody to rearrange for a Facebook dwell, folks would do it. But this can be a celebration occasion. The celebration has a monetary disaster. It prices Rs 7,000 to have one digital camera to do a Facebook dwell. We will not be in a position to give cash to our candidates. Our candidates spend on their very own. But our social media continues to be nice. If I’ve the sources and the cooperation, I can drive the BJP loopy. I had nothing (in 2015) and but had pushed folks in energy loopy.

That fireplace Hardik Patel had earlier than, appears lacking…

Party is a unique ball recreation.

Is that proscribing you?

Absolutely.

Is it the Congress or the circumstances in opposition to you?

If I have been afraid of the circumstances why would I be a part of the Congress? I’d have gone and sat within the BJP.

The place the place I come from, the BJP wouldn’t have the ability to defeat me, they’d take me in as minister.

Has there been a proposal?

No.

What is your equation with the celebration management?

I get together with everybody — Bharatsinhbhai (Solanki, former union minister), Amitbhai (Chavda, GPCC chief), Pareshbhai (Dhanani, chief of opposition), Siddarthbhai (Patel, former PCC chief), Arjunbhai (Modhwadia, ex-PCC chief), and Shaktibhai (Shaktisinh Gohil, RS MP). Whether they get together with me or not that I don’t know.

Do you suppose they really feel insecure?

Why really feel insecure? If in 2022 we type the federal government, will they make me chief minister? You would be the chief minister. But first type the federal government.

What if you happen to have been the Congress president at the moment?

I’d tour the entire state. I’d know the issue of every village. My spokesperson, if he goes to a (media) debate on unemployment he ought to have the info readily available. If as a state celebration president, I have no idea the whole nature of Gujarat – the problems of each area – I shouldn’t be president. First, I ought to work to grow to be a state chief, then grow to be the face (of the celebration).

Why is the youth not connecting to the Congress?

Gujarat has three sorts of youth. If you sit within the Ahmedabad airport for an hour you will notice the Gujarat youth flying to Canada and Australia to check. He would possibly cool down there. The different is the one within the villages, who is simply concerned with a good training and a authorities job. The third is the one who’s doing his father’s enterprise, who doesn’t look after the world.

I consider that (for them) the whole election is just like the election of the President (American system). They solely take a look at two folks when voting, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. Gujarat or India’s youth doesn’t take a look at who’s the native candidate as a result of he has no understanding of politics. Even our smallest elections are a alternative between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.

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