Prashant Dayal, Ahmedabad: When Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel had given a clarion call to his community to ditch the Bharatiya Janata Party during the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections; it was an indirect suggestion by him to vote for Congress. Congress did come close winning the elections but fell short at the finish line. Now with the 2019 General elections inching closer, the Congress doesn’t seem too keen to gain the Patidar community votes with their support to their reservation agitation at the cost of upsetting the OBC (Other Backward Community) vote bank. The Congress seems to have realized that their backing of the Patidar community’s reservation agitation will mean that they are distancing themselves from the OBC voters. Those seeking governance of Gujarat know the importance of the OBC vote bank.

During a press conference in Gandhinagar on Tuesday, Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani was asked more than a dozen questions on Patidar Reservation and Hardik Patel by journalists. Not even once did Dhanani mention the name of Hardik Patel in his replies. Upon being asked if Congress would join Hardik in his fast-unto-death on August 25, Dhanani said that he has not been informed anything about this fast and has no information about it.
Upon being asked if his party is backing the agitation for Patidar reservation, Dhanani said that the party will fight for the issues faced by the citizens falling in the non-reserved category. Answering a question on whether the party plans to table a bill on reservation in the state assembly, Dhanani said, “I’ve been informed that the BJP government in the state has decided to provide all the benefits given to the reserved category communities to the non-reserved people too and this means the agitators have won. So if Dhanani’s words are to be deciphered, he meant to say that the demands of the agitators have been accepted and that there is no meaning in continuing with the protests anymore.

In 2017, when lakhs of people attended the rallies organized by Hardik, the Congress party that a poll-win is in the offing if they are using the influence of this youth leader as a plank. As a result, the party distributed tickets as per the demands set by Hardik. Despite all this, the party couldn’t stop BJP from winning and they have finally realized that if they continue their collaboration with Hardik, he will definitely demand seats in the Loksabha too during the 2019 General Elections.

Certain senior Congress leaders still believe that there is no harm in taking Hardik’s help in winning elections, but probably Hardik is of the belief that the party can’t do anything without him. Many other party members too now believe that Hardik is trying to throw his weight around as if the opinion of other Congress leaders is not of equal importance. So it seems like despite the Congress could benefit from the Patidar votes, it won’t contest the 2019 general elections with Hardik’s backing.

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