While there are still a couple of years before Gujarat goes to polls in 2022, the fate of the election has already been sealed. The Indian National Congress by appointing Patidar leader Hardik Patel as the Gujarat Congress Working President effectively seals the election for the BJP. Hardik’s elevation holds ominous signs for party stalwart and Sonia Gandhi’s most trusted aide, Ahmed Patel as he stands sidelined with years of loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family amounting to zilch.
Hardik Patel’s elevation as the Gujarat Congress Working President has the stamp of Rahul Gandhi all over. Hardik is close to Rahul with the latter not get ting along with Sonia’s trusted aide, Ahmed Patel. This is nothing short of hara-kiri by the INC by appointing the 26-year-old Hardik with no real ground support at the helm of the party’s state of affairs in Gujarat.
Congress saw a resurgence in Gujarat in 2017, as the party gained a 2% vote share to record a 41% vote share as it came close to dislodging the incumbent BJP government. Needless to say, Ahmed Patel played a key role in the party’s change of fortunes. Such is the hold of Ahmed Patel in Gujarat Congress that almost every candidate needs his stamp of approval be it the Mayoral or the Legislative elections. This move by Rahul Gandhi, will likely split the already ailing party.
The INC in Gujarat is a deeply divided house which again came to the fore in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections as the Congress failed to elect Bharat Solanki as a section of its MLAs rebelled and joined the BJP. There were already murmurs of discontent as the first choice preference votes went to Shaktisinh Gohil which greatly irked the Solanki camp.
Ahmed Patel played a key role in uniting the state Congress during the 2017 state elections. At that time, Hardik Patel was swinging as a pendulum and hurling accusations against the INC and BJP before finally settling down with the INC. The fact that just three years after joining the party, he is given the charge of the party’s fortunes in the state will likely cause widespread discontent.
Hardik is greatly despised in Gujarat as the man thought it’s prudent to agitate for one of the most richest communities, Patidars to gain reservation. The memories of the violent Patidar agitation is difficult to shirk off for the people of Gujarat and the fact that it is very likely that Hardik will become the CM if Congress gains majority, will likely spell the doom for the party’s fortunes in Gujarat.
There is no way that Hardik can manage to unite the party and retain the 41% vote share, let alone increase its vote share as nobody knows how will he perform. It is expected that Ahmed Patel’s sidelining will gravely affect the party’s vote share.
To think Hardik will be able to lead senior Congress leaders like Arjun Modhwadia, Paresh Dhanani, Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki is foolhardy. Apart from having zero experience, Hardik has absolutely no credibility and has a lot of skeletons in his closet.
Staunch Gandhi family loyalist and journalist Pallavi Ghosh in her column wrote, “Patel’s appointment is a Rahul stamp on the party and the two share a good equation. It also shows that a counter is being built to Ahmed Patel with whom Rahul doesn’t share a very good working equation.”
As the veteran stands sidelined, the Ahmed Patel camp will be enraged. Hardik doesn’t even have half the influence of Ahmed Patel in Gujarat. The latter who waged a lonely battle for his Rajya Sabha seat in 2017, is again left alone as he finds himself embroiled with the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case related to the Sandesara group. The apex family of the INC have so far maintained radio silence on the issue as they have refrained from backing Ahmed Patel.
He is quite literally the gatekeeper of Sonia Gandhi and her secrets and also found himself embroiled in the Augusta Westland case too as he has been accused of receiving kickbacks. Ahmed Patel is not only an important leader for the INC but is someone who knows way too many secrets of the Gandhi family.
From being the face of the party in Gujarat to being left to fend for himself, Ahmed Patel has recorded a disastrous downfall. Congress is yet again falling into the same old trap. The Patidars continue to call the shots in Gujarat’s political circles and have solidly voted for the BJP for the past two decades. However, after the Patidar agitation, the BJP had it enough as it replaced Anandiben Patel with Vijay Rupani, a Jain from Rajkot. The BJP did the same in Haryana as it opted for a Punjabi in Manohar Lal Khattar to break the hegemony of Jats. Congress seems to be caught in the past as it is foolishly thinking that the 2022 elections will be fought on the issue of Patidar agitation. The INC has dug its own grave in Gujarat all thanks to Rahul Gandhi.