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Gujarat: Hardik Patel joins BJP in election year; says will work as 'soldier' under PM Modi's leadership

Gujarat: Hardik Patel joins BJP in election year; says will work as soldier under PM Modis leadership
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Gandhinagar: Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Thursday joined the BJP in Gujarat, two weeks after quitting the Congress.

The move comes months ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, where the BJP seeks to retain power. Polls to the 182-member House are due by the end of this year.

Speaking to reporters later, Patel, once a vocal critic of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he joined the BJP without any expectation of getting a poll ticket and that he would serve as a "common worker" and "soldier" of the party. He also said that he left the Congress as it "does not respect people's sentiments and distances itself from religious issues concerning crores of Hindus".

Patel, 28, was welcomed into the party fold by BJP's Gujarat unit president C R Paatil and former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel. His induction ceremony took place at BJP's state unit headquarters 'Kamalam' here.

Patel had gained prominence in 2015 after he led the agitation seeking reservation for the Patidar community in the state.

He had joined the Congress in 2019 and was made the working president of its state unit in July 2020. However, he resigned from the party on May 18. Since then, speculation was rife that he might join the saffron party. On Tuesday, the BJP had announced that he would join the party on June 2.

Speaking at a press conference after joining the ruling party, Patel said, "BJP works in the interest of the nation and I will work as a common worker. Congress doesn't respect the sentiments of people. That party used to distance itself from religious issues concerning crores of Hindus. That is the reason why I left Congress. I urge leaders of other parties to join BJP and contribute towards nation building."

The former Patidar quota spearhead claimed it was is "home coming" for him as his late father Bharatbhai Patel used to work for former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel when she contested the Assembly poll from Mandal seat in 1990s.

Replying to a question whether he joined the BJP to save himself from two sedition cases against him and prove himself to be a "deshbhakt" instead of a "deshdrohi", Patel said he was always a patriot and would accept the court orders.

"Even when I was in Congress, I had praised PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for scrapping Article 370 and over the issue of Ram mandir," he added.

Patel had a led violent Patidar quota agitation against the BJP government and was a very vocal critic of the party in the past. The BJP government had slapped many cases against him including that of sedition.

He was convicted in rioting and arson cases that affected his chances of contesting an election before the Supreme Court recently stayed the conviction. He was charged under IPC sections 124(A) (sedition), 121 (A) (conspiracy to wage war against government) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), but has been out on bail since 2016.

The BJP government recently took steps to withdraw several cases lodged against Patel and others related to the 2015 reservation agitation and the violence that broke out in which ten people, including a policeman, were killed and public properties and vehicles damaged.

Before formally joining the BJP, Patel on Thursday morning posted a tweet saying that he would work as "small soldier" in the development work of the nation being carried out under the leadership of PM Modi.

"Today, I am going to start a new chapter keeping in mind the interest of the nation, region, society and community," he also said in the tweet.

When asked if he would apologise for the violence and damage to public property during the Patidar quota agitation, Patel said there was no question of apologising as the agitation was initiated for the benefit of the people.

"After the stir, the Centre under PM Modi introduced a law to give 10 per cent reservation to the economically weaker sections in the country. Hence, not just Patidars, but all other non-reserved communities, such as Brahmins and Rajputs, benefited from our agitation," he claimed.

When asked about the future of the relatives of 14 persons, who died in the violence during the stir, Patel expressed hope that the BJP government in the state would provide help to those families.

Till that time, he and his three friends would find suitable jobs for the relatives of those deceased, he added.

Last month, in his resignation letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, he had severely criticised the party leadership and claimed that the Congress "only played the role of a roadblock" over certain key issues in the country and was "merely reduced to opposing everything".

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