As it became clear that the BJP has won Gujarat again, Hardik Patel alleged that EVMs or Electronic Voting Machines were tampered with. He then sequestered himself at his apartment block in Silaj and messaged journalists that he would meet no one on Monday.
- Congress vote share increased because of me, says Hardik Patel
- The BJP should have "ideally got 82 seats", he says
- Hardik Patel will write to all opposition leaders to question EVMs
Today, the 24-year-old face of the Patel or Patidar agitation for reservation, said he played a crucial role in the Congress' vastly improved performance in Gujarat. "I still won seats for the Congress. Their vote share went from 33 to 43 per cent... that is because of me," Mr Patel told NDTV at his home.
The young activist, who had in fiery speeches that drew big crowds vowed to end BJP rule in Gujarat, was subdued today. But he reiterated his allegation that "12-13 seats were messed around with...seats which made ministers win."
The BJP should have "ideally got 82 seats," Hardik Patel said, adding, "the Patels opposed them, OBCs opposed them, Dalits opposed them, traders opposed them, so who voted for them?"
His struggle would continue, he said, stating that he is writing to all opposition leaders to question EVMs and demand that elections be held using ballot paper as they once were.
He had said yesterday as votes were counted, "EVMs decide our country's future... If ATMs can be hacked, why can't EVMs?" Voting machines had been tampered with in Surat, Rajkot and Ahmedabad, where the results were close, he alleged.
The Election Commission has ruled out any tampering of the machines, saying a paper trail or VVPAT ensured there was no scope for manipulating the process.
Weeks before the Gujarat elections, Rahul Gandhi, now Congress President, partnered with Hardik Patel in an attempt to draw votes from his influential community, loyal for years to the BJP. Mr Gandhi wanted to cash in on Patel anger at the BJP for not including them among castes that get benefits of affirmative action. When asked if Hardik Patel had been in touch with Rahul Gandhi, he said, "I haven't been in touch with anyone."
The effort has delivered some Patel votes for the Congress, especially in the Saurashtra region, where Hardik Patel drew a big response. The BJP's biggest setback was in Saurashtra, where it lost 13 seats it held.
While Hardik Patel claimed that the Congress benefited from Patel support in Saurashtra because of him, he was unable to explain what went wrong for him in Surat, a hub of the trading community and also a Patel stronghold. The BJP has won 14 out of 16 seats in Surat, retaining its hold.
The BJP, in power in Gujarat for the last two decades, has been picked again by the state, but this time with a lower margin of victory over the Congress, which posted its best result in the state for years. The BJP has won 99 seats, just seven more than the 92 it needed to form government and 16 less than last time. The Congress went from 61 in 2012, to 80 in this election.