- Narendra Patel says BJP offered him 1 crore to ditch Hardik Patel
- Narendra Patel joined BJP on Sunday, then went public with claim
- BJP denies wrongdoing, court to hear Narendra Patel's case tomorrow
Narendra Patel, age 47, joined the BJP on Sunday. He was seen as a trophy acquisition because he was a close aide of Hardik Patel, the fiery young leader who has declared a mission to remove the BJP, which has run Gujarat for nearly two decades. Just hours after he was inducted into the BJP, Narendra Patel called a press conference late on Sunday night. On the table in front of him were stacks of cash - 10 lakhs that Narendra Patel claimed was the first installment of a crore used to bait him into joining the BJP.
Narendra Patel claims that the middleman for the deal was Varun Patel, another past associate Hardik Patel, who joined the BJP on Saturday. Varun Patel has denied the accusations; so has the BJP, which attributes the scandal to subterfuge by the Congress ahead of the state election.
The court tomorrow will hear Narendra Patel's request for an investigation.
Hardik Patel, who is 24, insists he is not a politician and that he is not in service to the Congress, as the BJP alleges, disparagingly tagging him as the "B-team" of the main opposition party. Instead, Hardik Patel offers himself as an activist at the head of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, formed in 2015 to rally against the BJP.
For decades, the Patidars or Patels of Gujarat, a powerful and prosperous caste, funded and voted for the BJP. But Hardik Patel has led the charge that the BJP's focus on industrial growth allocated no part to the Patels, who were farmer or land-owners and found their wealth steadily diminishing. The Patels must therefore be included in affirmative action policies, Hardik Patel says.
Gujarat must choose its next government by December 18 - election dates are likely to be announced tomorrow. Though the BJP is unlikely to confront a close fight, Rahul Gandhi, who has been traveling across the state, is using the economic slowdown and the discontent over the awkward implementation of the new Goods and Services Tax or GST, to target the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has also been making frequent trips to his home state, each accompanied by an assortment of well-funded policies or projects to boost public approval.
Though Hardik Patel denies actively supporting the Congress, along with other young leaders like Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani, he could be instrumental in driving key communities away from the BJP. Alpesh Thakore, a popular OBC (other backward caste) leader, joined the Congress yesterday at a rally with Rahul Gandhi.