Months before the Gujarat election, the Congress is a house divided with its working president in the state, Hardik Patel, furious and publicly lashing out against his bosses.
Hardik Patel, who was inducted in the Congress by Rahul Gandhi just before the 2017 Gujarat election, exposed the internal turmoil in the opposition party as he accused the leadership of sidelining him. He said he is not invited to any meeting of the state Congress unit and he is never consulted before decisions.
“My position in the party is that of a new groom who has been made to undergo nasbandi (vasectomy),” he was quoted as telling the Indian Express.
The powerful Patidar leader is also believed to be upset at the way the party has handled the induction of another leader of the community, Naresh Patel.
His comments are hugely troubling for the Congress in one of the few states in which it is in a direct fight with the ruling BJP. Elections are due in December in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The talk doing the rounds on the induction of Naresh Patel in the Congress is insulting for the entire community. It has been over two months now. Why has no decision been taken yet? The Congress high command or local leadership should take a quick decision about Naresh Patel’s induction,” he said.
Hardik Patel was speaking a day after declaring his intention to contest the elections after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a 2015 case registered during the Patidar agitation.
Hardik Patel said the Patidar quota agitation had helped the Congress win a significant number of seats in the elections to local bodies in 2015 and the 2017 state election in Gujarat, when the party won 77 constituents in the 182-member assembly.
“But what happened after that? Many in Congress also feel that Hardik Patel was not properly utilised by the party after 2017. It may be because some people in the party would think that I would come in their way after five or 10 years if I am given significance today,” he said.
Hardik Patel became the working president of the Congress in Gujarat in 2020.
He said the Congress had benefited “because of us (the Patel community)” in the 2017 polls.
“Now, as I am seeing on TV, the party wants to induct Naresh Patel for the 2022 polls. I hope they do not search for a new Patel for the 2027 elections. Why does the party not utilise the people they already have?” he questioned, asking the party not to “insult” him.
Gujarat Congress president Jagdish Thakor said he would soon meet with Hardik Patel to discuss his concerns. “The Congress is ready to welcome Naresh Patel…But ultimately, the final decision will be taken by him only,” Mr Thakor told reporters.