Former Congress leader Hardik Patel will join the BJP on June 2 in the presence of Gujarat party president C R Paatil, a state party spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Patel’s move comes ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections due later this year. The BJP has been in power in the state for over two decades.
Patel, 28, had in 2015 led a violent agitation seeking quota for his Patidar community and was a strong critic of the BJP in the past.
The then BJP government in Gujarat had booked the firebrand leader in several cases, including on the charge of sedition.
However, Patel, who had joined the Congress in 2019 and was later made the state unit’s working president, quit the party earlier this month. Since then, there were speculations that he may join the ruling BJP.
Of late, he has been praising the BJP’s decision-making capacity and style of functioning, while severely criticising the Congress leadership.
“It is confirmed that Hardik Patel will join the BJP on June 2 in the presence of state president C R Paatil,” BJP’s state spokesperson Yagnesh Dave told PTI.
Reacting to the development, Gujarat’s former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said if someone wants to use the BJP to serve the society, he is welcome to the party.
“Several people from various walks of life representing different districts have joined the BJP (state unit) under the leadership of C R Paatil,” he said.
Hardik Patel’s close aide Alpesh Kathiriya said after joining the BJP, the Patidar leader should ensure that the state government withdraw cases registered against several community members, and give jobs to the family members of those who lost their lives during the Patidar quota agitation.
Before quitting the Congress earlier this month, Hardik Patel had written a scathing letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi, claiming the Congress “only played the role of a roadblock” over certain key issues in the country and was “merely reduced to opposing everything”.
He had come to limelight in 2015 when he led the agitation demanding reservation for the Patidar community members in government jobs and educational institutes.
Ten people, including a policeman, were killed in the violence then and public properties and vehicles damaged.
He had been charged under various Indian Penal Code Sections, including 124(A) (sedition), 121(A) (conspiracy to wage war against government) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), in which he is out on bail since 2016.
Hardik Patel had then positioned himself as a vocal critic of the BJP, accusing the party and its governments in the state and at the Centre of being against the poor, farmers and youth.
He later joined the opposition Congress in March 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
But, it was not possible for him to contest the parliamentary election due to his conviction in a rioting case.
Notably, the Supreme Court last month stayed his conviction in a rioting and arson case.
The BJP government also recently took steps to withdraw several cases lodged against Hardik Patel and others in connection with the 2015 quota agitation.