Gujarat Election: Who Is Hardik Patel? Congress Turncoat And Face Of 2015 Patidar Agitation

New Delhi: Gujarat Assembly Election, which is scheduled to take place in December, is going to see a thrilling battle this time between the three parties- BJP, AAP and Congress. The Bhartiya Janta Party on Thursday announced its candidates for the upcoming Gujarat polls. Among the 160 candidates, the list featured former Congress leader and Patidar face Hardik Patel. He will be contesting from the Viramgam constituency in the Ahmedabad district.

In August 2015, Patel hit national headlines when he led an agitation of the Patidar community demanding reservation under the OBC quota which turned violent, claiming at least 10 lives across the state.

Who is Hardik Patel?

At 29, the former Congress leader is the youngest contender so far named in the current elections. This is also the first time he will be contesting an election. Born in a Gujarati Patidar family, Hardik joined the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), a Patidar youth body, in 2012. Soon after, he became the president of its Viramgam unit.

In 2015, Patel formed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which led the Patidar reservation agitation, with the goal to include Patidars in the OBC quota. In August 2015, one of his rallies turned violent killing 10 people and as many as 650 persons accused of various offenses in 250 FIRs, with Patel himself facing at least 24 cases for offences such as rioting and sedition.

The Supreme Court stayed the conviction in the rioting and arson case in April 2022, which would have barred him from contesting elections.

There are at least a dozen cases pending against Patel, including two of sedition.

Criminal cases

Patel has listed a total of 20 criminal cases which are currently pending against him in his affidavit filed before the Election Commission while filing his nomination papers.

In nine of the 20 cases, the stipulated punishment is imprisonment of two years or above. Two of these pending cases are those of sedition registered against him in Surat and Ahmedabad. In addition, there are 11 pending criminal cases in which the punishment is below two years.

Political career

Patel backed the campaign of the Indian National Congress (INC) in the 2017 Gujarat legislative assembly election. He could not contest the assembly polls because he wasn’t 25, the minimum age to be a candidate. Later, in March 2019 he joined the party. He served as the working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, the state unit of Congress in Gujarat. In May 2022, he quit Congress to join the saffron party, calling himself a “small worker of the BJP.”

Elections to the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases next month – on December 1 and 5, while votes will be counted on December 8.