Gujarat elections: After weeks of drama, Hardik Patel backs Congress
After weeks of dilly-dallying over seat distribution and quota negotiations, Patidar leader Hardik Patel has announced his tie-up with Congress for the upcoming Gujarat elections. He claims Congress offered an "acceptable solution" of quotas for Patidars. Earlier, this alliance faced opposition from Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti's (PAAS) supporters over ticket distribution. Hardik had also denounced the BJP and Congress as "being the same."
How did the negotiations proceed until now?
Earlier, Congress' Kapil Sibal had provided Patidars three reservations options and had decided to field 7-8 candidates recommended by Hardik. However, after a Congress-Patidar meet in Delhi got delayed, Patidars had set a 24-hour deadline for the Congress to accept Patidar demands or risk losing their support. Later, following a crucial meeting, they asserted that an agreement was reached on "all major issues."
Tussle over seats led to violent clashes
Following its crucial meeting with Patidars, Congress released its list of candidates, which included only two PAAS supporters. Subsequently, violent clashes erupted as PAAS supporters attacked Congress offices. Then, Congress in damage-control mode replaced five of the total 90 candidates to pacify the Patidars.
Hardik denies "joining" Congress; trains guns on BJP
After the issue of seats got resolved, Hardik held a press conference announcing his "indirect" support for Congress. He said PAAS is not "openly" supporting Congress, but as they are both fighting BJP, they became natural allies. Further, he accused BJP of "horse-trading" claiming that he was offered a whopping Rs. 1,200cr to switch sides. He said another PAAS convener was offered Rs. 50L.
Meanwhile, Hardik says no Congress tickets were sought
Meanwhile, even as other PAAS leaders claimed they received the short-end of the stick in terms of seats, Hardik said PAAS had not negotiated with Congress about fielding candidates. He further denied any fracture within PAAS. He also urged Patidars to not forget the "martyrs" of the 2015 agitation for the sake of 3-4 tickets. He said their primary goal is reservation for Patidars.
Congress' Patidar quota formula is finally revealed!
About the quota formula, Hardik said Congress will use Article 46 to bring a bill for "non-reserved" classes. Article 46 pertains to the promotion of educational and economic interests of SCs, STs and other weaker sections. Further, OBC equivalent benefits will be given to those not entitled to quotas in jobs and education. Hardik said Congress will put this quota formula in their manifesto.
What does this imply?
Hardik has been cautious in declaring support to Congress. This wariness comes amid reports that Patidars, who have been BJP's core support base since two decades, were unhappy about Hardik's rising proximity with Congress. Hardik has also been successful in keeping Congress at tenterhooks, forcing them to change their candidates' list to accommodate PAAS candidates. Congress will hope his high-handedness translates to votes.