Hardik Patel has become a well-known face in Indian politics after the Patidar reservation movement in Gujarat in 2015. After the end of the movement, he joined Congress in 2019 but a few days ago he left Congress and joined the BJP. However, the biggest irony is that Patel was once a staunch anti-BJP leader.
For Outlook, Rajiv Nayan Chaturvedi spoke to him and tried to understand why he left Congress and joined the BJP and what his strategy would be in the coming times.
You joined Congress in 2019 and now you have left. What is the reason for disenchantment with the Congress?
When we started the movement in 2015, its main goal was to give the people of Gujarat maximum benefits in education and employment. It was because of our movement that the 'Yuva Swavalamba Yojana' was started in Gujarat and a commission was formed for the unreserved people. After that, in 2019, Narendra Bhai declared economic reservation, and we ended our movement, believing that we would now serve the people by entering politics.
When I joined Congress, I saw that it was playing with the sentiments of the people. We asked the party to clarify its stand on issues like Ram Mandir and Article 370, but the party did not do so. I was the working president of the State Congress, yet my picture was not displayed on any poster and I was not invited to the meeting. I also contacted Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, and Sonia ji regarding this, but there was no response from them also. After that, I thought that now I should part my way. In Congress, capable and strong people are not allowed to progress.
Any special love for the BJP? Why did you choose BJP?
Narendra Bhai Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat for 12 years and has been serving the people of Gujarat as Prime Minister. He is always involved in the happiness and sorrow of Gujarat and I am proud of it. Being a Gujarati, I want to serve my Gujarat by joining them.
Long ago, you made a tweet that if a traitor joins the BJP, he becomes a patriot. The people of BJP had accused you of being a traitor too, so have you become a patriot now?
No one can call me a traitor. I have earned the love of the people of Gujarat. Even when I was not in the BJP, I used to work in the interest of the country. I never raised slogans against the country. I have never been sued for raising my voice against the country, I was sued for raising the voice of the country. Even when Narendra Bhai removed Article 370 from Kashmir, I had said that there should be only one legislation in a country. The rest of the Congress leaders will say a lot now. They did not understand my patriotism.
What will be your focus in the coming years?
Narendra Modi has been associated with the people of the country for the last 20-22 years. His focus has always been on how the schemes reach every individual. While at the party, I will also reach out to the people and make them aware of all the schemes that the PM has implemented for the people of the country. I feel very sad when someone is poor and deprived.
The Aam Aadmi Party is also trying to establish a foothold in Gujarat. Is it going to harm the BJP? And why didn't you join AAP?
The Aam Aadmi Party does not exist in Gujarat and has an ineffective presence. AAP is not going to make any difference to us. And when it comes to the existence of Gujarat, I will stand by my Narendra Bhai Modi.
Jignesh Mevani is your good friend. However, he is charged in numerous cases, and Congress claims that all the cases are politically motivated, accusing the BJP of taking revenge. What is your view on this?
I will talk about the movement. When we organise any movement, many such chaotic elements get involved in it and try to defame us with their antics. There are many cases going on against me too, and I have full faith in the justice system of this country and hope that we will get justice and be proved innocent. Even when Narendra Bhai was the CM of Gujarat, many allegations were levelled against him by Congress, but in the end, he got a clean chit. The same will happen with us.
You have said that the vote of Congress will go to Owaisi's party. It is generally said that Owaisi gets the vote of Muslims only. Are you implying that only Muslims vote for Congress?
See, Congress has always been doing a politics of appeasement, and it can go to any extent for minority votes. The biggest example of this is Congress' Gujarat leader, Bharat Singh Solanki, who said that dogs urinate on the walls of the Ram Temple. The question now is, for whom was this statement made? Although I have faith in the people of Gujarat, they have been loving the BJP since 1995 and will continue to do so.
BJP has always been accused of spreading communalism, and you call yourself a secular leader. How are you going to save this image in the BJP?
I am secular but also the biggest Hindu. In Gujarat, religious events take place very often, and I also participated in it. Being a Hindu doesn't mean that I hate other religions. But yes, I hate people who take benefits in the name of religion.
What is your roadmap for the next five years?
When we started the movement, we wanted to serve the people. Even when I joined Congress, I continued to serve the people and wanted to do it further, but Congress was not allowing to do so. Today, when I joined the BJP, I wanted to serve the public socially and politically with the help of senior leaders of the party. I hope Narendra Bhai will recognise my potential and make full use of it.