Ahmedabad: Patidar campaigner Hardik Patel today once again denied meeting with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi as new CCTV footage from a five-star hotel in Gujarat appeared to contradict him.
- Patidar activist Hardik Patel denies meeting Rahul Gandhi in hotel
- CCTV footage shows him meeting a man, sources say it was Rahul Gandhi
- BJP denies being behind the leaked security footage
In the footage recorded on Monday between 12 and 2 pm, Hardik Patel is seen waiting in a corridor, then walking towards a room. He is greeted at the door by a person who shakes hands with him before they enter together. That figure in a white kurta is believed to be Rahul Gandhi, according to sources.
Both Hardik Patel and the Congress have denied such a meeting till now.
"Am I seen very clear in the CCTV footage or Rahul Gandhi?" the 24-year-old activist countered when asked about the footage. "Our demand is only on quota and if the Congress supports us, we will support it," he claimed.
The state's ruling BJP has denied allegations that it used the state and police machinery to extract and leak security footage said to be from the hotel Ummed in Ahmedabad, where several Congress leaders stayed over the past few days.
"We had no role in the CCTV footage leak. But we want to ask Hardik why he is hiding it. There is something sinister in it,'' said Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
Gujarat will vote on December 9 and 14 and the results will be declared on December 18.
Hardik Patel, the young quota campaigner who shot to prominence two years ago, has been courted eagerly by the Congress as it tries to scoop up the support of the Patels, Dalits and Other Backward Classes or OBCs, all groups seen to be disenchanted with the BJP.
In a series of tweets yesterday, Hardik Patel, the leader of the politically important Patidars or Patels in Gujarat, had said: "When I meet (Rahul Gandhi), I will shout it to the entire country."
The hotel footage has been splashed across TV channels as evidence of a meeting.
Earlier footage showed Hardik Patel entering the hotel on Sunday and exiting on Monday afternoon, a little after Rahul Gandhi left the hotel for a rally.
On Monday, OBC or Other Backward Castes leader Alpesh Thakor joined the Congress. Hardik Patel would be chary about being seen fraternizing with the Congress at the same time as Thakor, who represents the numerically dominant OBCs that are a formidable rival for the quota pie. Those close to him say it would be playing right into the hands of the BJP.
It also doesn't seem politically wise for the Congress to consort with the Patels at the cost of OBCs. And so the secrecy, say sources.
Congress leader Ashok Gehlot has accused the state government of using the police and intelligence agencies to spy on Congress leaders at the hotel. He also alleges that CCTV footage was taken from the hotel by the police and leaked.