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Congress Members Slam Hardik Patel on Quitting, Say ‘He Wanted an Easy Life’

Hardik Patel's aides, however, said that he was feeling "alienated" within the Congress party.

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Youth leader Hardik Patel announced his decision to quit the Congress on Wednesday, 18 May, after months of expressing his discontentment with the party.

Earlier this month, Patel had removed ‘Congress’ from his twitter bio, hinting towards his impending departure from the party. This meant that while his resignation did not invite surprise or shock, several Congress members did express disappointment with Patel’s political trajectory within the party.

Speaking to The Quint, Arjun Modhwadia, former Gujarat Congress president, said that Patel came to Congress looking for “an easy and comfortable life”, but didn’t find it.

“When he was joining Congress, I had personally advised him to start with Youth Congress, spend a few years there and then work his way upwards. This way he would have actually contributed to building the party from the ground up, but he wasn’t interested in that,” Modhwadia said. “This is because he was hoping he will just have a comfortable life and enjoy his tenure. But politics takes hard work,” he added.

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Shaktisinh Gohil, Rajya Sabha member and Gujarat Congress leader, while speaking to the media in Delhi said that Patel’s words in his resignation letter are not his own, but scripted by the BJP.

"These are not allegations of someone who has quit Congress. These are all written down by the BJP,” Gohil said.

In the resignation letter, Patel has hit out at the party leadership for being concerned with things like chicken sandwiches.

"It is unfortunate that workers like us, who travel 500-600 km in our cars in a single day to meet people, get to see those big leaders of Congress in Gujarat, who are least bothered to address real issues of the state, but are more focused on ensuring that chicken sandwich for leaders who have come from Delhi is delivered on time!" he said.

How Social Cadre Didn't Translate Into Political Backing

Patel first came into limelight in 2015 on the back of the state-wide Patidar quota agitation, which demanded OBC status for the community. In 2017, he went on to extend support in the Gujarat assembly elections, and then officially joined the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In July 2020, the 27-year-old was appointed as the working president of the Gujarat Congress, but in barely 2 months of his appointment, the Congress lost all the eight bypoll assembly seats to the BJP in September that year.

“That was our first sign that he (Hardik) has lost his appeal among the masses that he had built through the quota agitation. Since then, he has consecutively failed in helping the party in any significant way,” a senior Gujarat Congress leader said.

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The Congress then also fared poorly in the local body elections in the state which took place in February 2021, winning only 1,805 out of 8,470 seats across all the municipalities, and district and taluka panchayats. The party didn’t win a single seat in the municipal polls in the politically important district of Surat.

Patel’s public appearances and speeches did continue to gather crowds, but that didn’t necessarily translate into support for the Congress.

A party worker, who was working closely with Patel, said, “The problem was that he (Hardik) emerged out of a social movement, but politics is a different ball game. A lot of his former cadre base dissociated themselves from him, as they also got disillusioned when he joined a mainstream established political party like Congress instead of continuing to work in activism. His transition from activism to political life wasn’t as smooth as he would have liked,” the source said.

Patel started out his journey in public life as the founding convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), but the group refused to support the Congress for the local body polls when the party denied any ticket to its members. This added to the growing wedge between Patel and his former base.

After the poor performance in the local body polls, Patel began speaking against the Congress publicly, lamenting about the “groupism” prevalent within the local leadership.

'Hardik Ideologically Never A Congressman': Party Leader

In his resignation letter, Patel has clearly hinted his support for the central BJP on multiple issues.

He has written that whether it is the GST or the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Mandir or the CAA-NRC issue, Congress has “only been an impediment when the country wanted solutions”.

“Whether it is about the country, Gujarat, or my own Patel community, the Congress party’s stand has only been limited to opposing the central government,” he wrote.

Patel also hit out at the Congress leadership for lacking seriousness.

“There also seems to be no seriousness within the central leadership of the party with regard to any issue. Whenever I met the leadership, it seemed like more than the people of Gujarat and the issues of the party, their focus was on their mobile phones and other things,” Patel wrote.

Raju Parmar, former MP and Gujarat Congress leader said this shows an “ideological bankruptcy".

“If you disagree with the Congress on fundamental ideological issues like the Ram Mandir, then you were clearly never truly a Congress member. He should have made his ideological affinity clear while joining the Congress,” Parmar told The Quint. “As for the grievances, he (Hardik) has met Rahul Gandhi so many times. He could speak about these issues with party members internally, why lash out publicly like this?” he added.

'Hardik Felt Alienated By Congress': Aide

Patel’s close aides, however, also point out that his depleting mass appeal had to do with the many restrictions levelled on him on account of the multiple cases he has been charged with since his agitation days.

“He has over 30 cases registered against him,” a close aide of Patel said. One of these cases is that of Sedition – section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In November 2020, Patel was able to travel outside of Gujarat after nearly 10 months, as the high court modified the bail condition that originally barred him from leaving the state.

“He is restricted from entering Mehsana due to one of these rioting cases since 2015. He has been arrested so many times in the last few years. All this definitely takes a toll on the public visibility and one’s ability to work on the ground,” the aide added.

“Hardik did not feel supported enough by the Congress high command amid all these challenges. In fact, when his father passed away due to Covid at the peak of the second wave, barely any Congress leader even called him to give consolation. He felt alienated,” the aide added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Congress   Hardik Patel   Gujarat Congress 

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