After months of speculations that he might join the Congress, Patidar leader and head of Shree Khodaldham Trust Naresh Patel on Thursday announced that he is postponing his decision to join politics. The announcement comes as a major setback for the opposition Congress that was in talks with him.
After a meeting with the members of various Trusts that he is associated with, Patel announced in Rajkot that he was postponing his decision to join politics. Fifty-six-year-old Patel, an industrialist and social worker, however, kept a window open when he said that in future times and circumstances may make you do anything.
Patel said that he has taken a decision based on the survey he had initiated of just not the Patidar community but other strata of the society. According to him, 80 per cent youth and 50 per cent women wanted him to join politics, but elders did not want him to join politics.
Gujarat BJP president C.R. Paatil was quick to react. When asked to comment at a function, Paatil said that Patel’s decision is mature and welcomed.
Justifying his decision, Patel said that if he joined one party then he would not be able to work for all sections of the society and then would get bound by the party.
While it is a major setback for the Congress, it is surely a positive sign for the ruling BJP for coming from the Leuva subcaste of the Patidar community, he has a major hold over them, especially in Saurashtra region. About a month ago, Patidar leader Hardik Patel had quit the Congress. He later on joined the BJP.
In 2017, following the Patidar Reservation Stir headed by Hardik in 2015, the BJP had suffered a brunt as Patels, who are normally believed to be voting for the BJP, voted for the Congress in large numbers.
The Patidars hold a major sway over 50 out of the 182 assembly seats in Gujarat and Levua and Kadva together constitute about 15 per cent of the state’s electorate.
Sources said that Patel’s joining the Congress had become doubtful after his friend election strategist Prashant Kishore did not join the Congress. Patel has leanings towards the Congress.
He said that he would support any good candidate contesting from any party.
Patel is believed to have met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi also. He along with Kishore also had a meeting with Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Ghelot.
The grapevine has it that he had proposed that he be made a chief ministerial candidate face to which the Congress disagreed.
Replying to a question as to whether his decision of not joining politics comes after the Congress rejected the condition, Patel said it is up to the party to accept or not to accept. He, however, did not say that a condition was laid for joining the Congress.
Whether Patel is joining politics or not had been going on for over three months now and the way he was delaying the decision, it was becoming clear that he is unlikely to join the Congress.
The possibility of the BJP having prevailed is also not being ruled out. The kind of respect he commands in the community, the work that is being done by the Trust and at a personal level, the BJP has never spoken against Patel, not even when there were talks that he is likely to join the Congress.
About a week ago, he was seen sharing the space with Paatil at a programme in Rajkot.
Patel announced that they would start a Political Academy at Khodaldham for the ones who want to get trained for joining politics.