Who is playing games and who will benefit, the voters will decide in December, but for now theatrics is on the house – from the stake holders.
A few hours after he was welcomed into the BJP on Sunday, Narendra Patel, a Patidar from north Gujarat appeared with wads of cash and alleged that he had been offered Rs 1 crore by the state’s ruling party to join it. Narendra Patel is a senior member of a group led by 24-year-old activist Hardik Patel, the face of the massive Patel agitation for reservation in government colleges and jobs.
The BJP dismissed Narendra Patel’s allegation as a Congress conspiracy to draw the support of the powerful Patel community ahead of key assembly elections in the state, to be held by December this year.
Narendra Patel, convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti or PAAS in north Gujarat, alleged at a late night press conference on Sunday that he was offered money by the BJP through Varun Patel, a close aide of Hardik Patel who had joined the party a day earlier.
“Varun Patel made a Rs 1 crore-deal with the BJP for me. He gave 10 lakh rupees in advance. They are going to be give me Rs 90 lakh rupees tomorrow but even if they give me the entire Reserve Bank (of India) they will not be able to buy me,” Narendra Patel said, dramatically spreading out bundles of cash that he said were given to him to switch sides.
He claimed that he had decided to take the money to prove that he was being bribed and expose Varun Patel and the BJP, describing how he was taken to capital Gandhinagar to meet the BJP’s Gujarat chief Jitubhai Vaghani and other leaders in a blur of hectic activity on Sunday and allegedly offered the money.
Varun Patel, who joined the BJP on Saturday, shot back, “Instead of 10 lakhs, Narendra Patel should have taken the entire 1 crore rupees he claims he was offered and then done the press conference. Why did he just take 10 lakhs, is he that crazy?”
He added that the Patel community is moving back to the BJP, which they have loyally supported for years but were upset with recently for not extending the benefits of reservation to them. “The Congress is scared because Patels are moving towards the BJP and no Patel will attend Rahul Gandhi’s rally. The Congress now knows that the BJP will sweep majority seats.”
BJP denies the charges
BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said Narendra Patel has made a “false accusation,” adding, “First, he came out and declared he is joining BJP. After 2-3 hours he does this drama… The Congress cannot sway Gujarat’s populace with this kind of drama.”.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who will hold another election rally in the state, has accused the BJP of shortchanging the community and promising to fulfill their demands if his party returns to power in Gujarat, ruled by the BJP for the last two decades.
Varun Patel and another prominent member of Hardik Patel’s PAAS, Reshma Patel, joined the BJP on Saturday alleging that the Congress is trying to hijack the community’s reservation stir. Their crossover raised the BJP’s hope of containing the damage done to BJP-Patel relations. Last year the party replaced Anandiben Patel, seen to have alienated the Patidars with her handling of the agitation, with Vijay Rupani as Chief Minister.