Hardik Patel Is Shiv Sena's New Weapon Against Estranged Ally BJP

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Hardik Patel has been named as the Shiv Sena's face for Gujarat polls by Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai:  Hardik Patel, the 23-year-old Patel quota activist who became a political headache for the BJP in Gujarat, will now be the face of its estranged ally Shiv Sena in assembly polls in the state later this year.

Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray met Hardik Patel at his Mumbai home Matoshree this morning and announced, "Hardik Patel will be the face of the Shiv Sena's campaign in Gujarat."

Hardik Patel, who spent six months out of Gujarat after being arrested for sedition, says he will meet with people of the Gujarati community in Mumbai.

"My meeting people from the Gujarati community in Mumbai should not be viewed politically," he said, however.

The visit just days before polling for the high-stake BMC or Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections is seen as the Sena's answer to the BJP aggressively reaching out to the Marathi community - the Sena's traditional vote-bank.

Now the Sena wants to do the same with the Gujarat community in Mumbai, that supports the BJP. The Gujarati community is estimated to constitute 17 per cent of Mumbai's voters and the Marathi vote is more than 30 per cent.

In fact, the Gujarati vote is significant enough to sway the results for the 40-odd seat BMC, which is the country's richest municipal body with a 37,000 crore-budget.
                
Hardik Patel was exiled from Gujarat and spent half a year in Udaipur in Rajasthan as the condition for his bail after his arrest in 2015 for violence during protests over quota for Patels. Around a dozen people were killed when a rally he called led to violence across the state.  
Mr Patel was in jail for nine months before he was granted bail on the condition that he would leave Gujarat immediately. After his return last month, the young campaigner pledged to ensure the defeat of the BJP in the Gujarat polls.

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