The Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat has issued an open invitation to seemingly disgruntled Congress leader Hardik Patel to swap outfits ahead of the December assembly election. The AAP’s state chief Gopal Italia told ANI ‘… instead of complaining… he should contribute here’.
“If Hardik Patel is not liking in Congress, he should join a like-minded party like AAP. Instead of complaining to Congress, wasting his time, he should contribute here… A party like Congress would not have a place for dedicated people like him,” Italia told ANI on Friday.
Buzz about Patel’s future in the Congress have made headlines this week after the fiery Patidar community leader slammed his party on Wednesday and Thursday, only to make an apparent U-turn today; he played down talk of his quitting but said ‘… will be small fights’.
READ: Hardik Patel denies talk of leaving Congress, says, ‘will be small fights’
The AAP and the Congress are busy prepping for assembly polls later this year, but both face the daunting prospect of ousting the ruling BJP, which has won every state poll since 1995.
Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP comes into round 2 of the 2022 elections on a high after knocking the Congress out of power in Punjab, and is quietly confident after strong results in local body polls.
The Congress, meanwhile, continues to be in disarray, was hammered in four of five states that voted in February-March, and can ill-afford another high-profile leadership crisis.
On that note, Hardik Patel’s outbursts this week will worry the senior leadership.
READ: Congress’ Hardik Patel hits out at his party months before Gujarat polls
Earlier today Patel, 28, refused talk of his leaving the Congress.
“There is a rumour I am leaving Congress, I do not know who is spreading so…” he was quoted by ANI.
“I have given my 100 per cent to Congress till now, and will give the same in the coming days. There will be small fights and blame games within the party, but we have to work together…”
There was, however, also a cautionary note; “If speaking truth is a crime, consider me guilty. The people of Gujarat have expectations from us, we have to stand up (for) them.”
On Thursday Patel, who rose to prominence as the leader of the Patidar community’s agitation for OBC reservation, accused Gujarat Congress leaders of harassing him, and told PTI.
READ: Facing harassment from party men, they want me to leave Congress: Hardik Patel
He also said he had taken up the issue with Rahul Gandhi several times, but added that no action has been taken so far to address his grievances.
The Congress’s plan to rope in Naresh Patel, another prominent Patidar face, ahead of the 2022 Gujarat election has also angered Hardik Patel.
“You used Hardik in 2017, you want to use Naresh bhai in 2022 and in 2027 you would use another Patidar leader. Why don’t you support and strengthen Hardik?” he said to PTI.
The Congress has responded cautiously, with state chief Jagdish Thakor saying, “We have seen statements given by Patel in the media. We will call him and discuss the whole matter. We will try to understand what the issues are. Only after that, will we be able to speak…”
With input from ANI, PTI