Hardik Patel, convicted in 2015 case, won't contest polls
Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who recently joined Congress, won't contest upcoming polls since a Gujarat High Court rejected his plea seeking a stay on his conviction. Hardik was sentenced to two years in prison in July 2018, for rioting outside the office of a BJP leader in 2015. The firebrand leader approached the court seeking relief but was turned down on Friday.
A bit about the 2015 case
When Hardik led the Patidar agitation in 2015, a mob of about 3,000-5,000 people vandalized the office of BJP MLA Rushikesh Patel and 14 people died in the violence. Hardik, the key accused, was sentenced to two years in prison. He was also directed to pay Rs. 50,000. HC had given him bail and his sentence was suspended in August 2018, but his conviction stayed.
State government said Hardik had no "regards" for law
Notably, the Gujarat state government opposed Hardik's plea. Public prosecutor Mitesh Amin told justice AG Uraizee that Hardik was accused in as many as 17 cases. He claimed Hardik had no regards for the legal process and had been making "instigating utterances" even after 2015 agitation. Meanwhile, Hardik's lawyer IH Syed said if the conviction doesn't stay it will cause "irreparable damage" to the leader's image.
Representation of People's Act spoiled Hardik's poll dreams
Hardik won't be able to contest polls as per rules of Representation of People's Act. According to the 1951 Act, anyone who has been convicted with two or more years of imprisonment can't stand for polls.
To recall, Hardik had joined Congress earlier this month
Hardik, whose demand for reservation and criticism for BJP catapulted him to national politics, formally joined Congress on March 12. He had also lent support to Congress in 2017 Assembly polls when the party won 81 out of the 182 assembly seats. Hardik was welcomed by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who along with other senior members went to Gujarat for CWC meeting.
Patidars can sway elections in 5 Lok Sabha seats
Congress was banking on Hardik's clout on Patidar community this time. The Patidars constitute 12-14% of Gujarat's electorate and directly impact Rajkot, Jamnagar, Amreli, Porbandar and Surendranagar seats. As Patidars aren't really happy with BJP, the party turned its attention towards OBCs, hoping to gain ground. Fielding Hardik from his stronghold would have improved Congress' prospects, but it seems unlikely now.