- Varun Patel, Reshma Patel called Hardik Patel a "Congress agent"
- After public meetings, PM Modi will launch projects in Vadodara
- Gujarat OBC leader Alpesh Thakor joined Congress on Saturday
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Staunch critics of the ruling BJP at the height of the 2015 agitation for quotas for the Patel, or Patidar community, the switch by the two Hardik Patel aides could help the BJP retain the support of the community that has been staunch BJP supporters.
Hardik Patel responded to the setback, with a tweet. "The centipede will continue to run even if some of his legs break. People are with me, and I will continue to fight for them," he said.
The move comes just before PM Modi lands in south Gujarat, his fifth visit to the state in two months, and address public meetings at three locations including Vadodara and Saurashtra from where he will start the visit.
Saurashtra region, which has a significant population of Patidars, accounts for 58 of Gujarat's 182 assembly seats. In the last elections, the BJP had won 37 and the Congress 16 seats in the region.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had targeted this region as well, hoping to harness the Patel anger against the BJP government for refusing to give them quotas in government colleges and jobs.
Varun and Reshma Patel's announcement to join the BJP came hours after the Congress invited Hardik Patel and two activist leaders to support the party. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor has accepted the offer and invited Rahul Gandhi to join his rally on Monday while Jignesh Mevani is still to make up his mind.
PM Modi's visit, the opposition alleges, was made possible due to the Election Commission delaying announcing the polls in Gujarat. He will announce a number of developmental initiatives and launch what he has called his "dream project": India's first-of-its-kind ferry service between Ghogha in Saurashtra, and Dahej in South Gujarat.
The ferry service across the Gulf of Cambay will reduce the time taken to reach Dahej from Ghogha to just one hour. Currently, people have to travel 360 km around the gulf by road, a journey that takes up to 7 hours.
After addressing public meetings on either side of the Gulf of Cambay, PM Modi will travel to Vadodara where he will dedicate to the nation, the Vadodara City Command Control Centre and the Waghodiya Regional Water Supply Scheme
PM Modi will also lay the foundation stones of several infrastructure and development projects, including an integrated transport hub, regional water supply schemes, housing projects, and a flyover.