A day after he removed his designation from his Twitter profile, Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel on Tuesday tried to play it down, saying people are free to speculate.
Talking to THE WEEK, Patel said “bios” keep changing and that he had done it in the past also. “My profile on Twitter is of the Congress,” he said.
“I had changed the bio in the past also and that time people did not notice. Currently, the political scenario is hot and so people might have noticed,” he said, quickly adding that people are free to speculate. “You cannot stop them,” he said.
Patel noted that earlier also his Twitter bio had read “Proud Indian Patriot. Social Activist. Committed to better India”.
Asked if he is quitting the Congress, he said, “No”.
Patel said he is hopeful that all the differences within the party will be sorted out soon. He, however, claimed that he hasn’t given any time frame.
The firebrand Patidar leader has been sulking over the last several months reportedly for not being allowed a “free hand” to work in the party. The Congress leaders countered his allegations, saying that he did not follow protocols.
On April 28, top Gujarat Congress leaders along with party's state in-charge Raghu Sharma had attended a programme organized by Patel on the occasion of his father Bharatbhai’s first death anniversary. Their visit was considered as a first step towards solving the differences.
Sharma had said that Patel’s future is bright and he has an important role to play.
Gujarat Congress insiders see it as a ploy by Patel to have an upper hand in party’s organizational set up and even when it comes to selecting candidates for the Assembly elections. Gujarat goes to polls by the year end.
It is believed that Patel, who led the Patidar agitation of 2015 that helped the Congress put up a good show in 2017 Assembly elections, is not much welcomed in the ruling BJP as he had launched the agitation when Anandiben Patel, a close associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was the Gujarat chief minister. Anandiben, who succeeded Modi after he became the prime minister, had to eventually resign for alleged failure to handle the Patidar agitation.
Patel has been giving enough signals of his dissatisfaction with the local leadership and has in the recent past praised the BJP for some of its decisions, including revoking Article 370.
Meanwhile, the Congress faced another setback on Tuesday. On the day the party gave a hero’s welcome to Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani on his return to Gujarat after getting bail in two cases in Assam, three-time MLA from Khedbrahma in North Gujarat Ashwin Kotwal resigned from the party and joined the BJP.
North Gujarat is Congress’ stronghold and the party holds five out of the seven seats in the region, including that of Mevani and Kotwal. Mevani is waiting for the dissolution of the state Assembly to formally join the Congress. In 2017 elections, the Congress did not put up a candidate in Vadgam and supported Mevani.
In an embarrassment to the Congress, Kotwal said though he became an MLA thrice and the Congress helped him to win, Modi has been in his heart. He appreciated the concern and work done by Modi in the tribal areas.
The Congress had won 77 seats in 2017 elections and after 12 of its MLAs resigned in the last couple of years, the strength came down to 65 and now with Kotwal’s exit the strength stands at 64.