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Patidar trouble for BJP

Leader claims Rs10m bribe to join party, another quits citing broken promises

Gulf News

Ahmedabad: A leader of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) has claimed the BJP offered him Rs10 million (Dh564,900) to switch loyalties, a charge rubbished by Gujarat’s ruling party.

North Gujarat PAAS convener Narendra Patel’s allegation on Sunday was followed on Monday by another PAAS member, Nikhil Savani, resigning from the party a few months after joining, on grounds that it did not keep its promise to accept the Patidar community’s demands.

In a dramatic turn of events, Patel had announced in the presence of state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Jitu Vaghani last evening that he was joining the party. At about 10.30 pm, a couple of hours later, he called a press conference to allege that he was offered Rs10 million to go to the ruling party but would never betray his community.

Reacting to the allegations, the BJP claimed it was a “drama” staged at the behest of the Congress.

“All these allegations are false. It was a drama [enacted] by Narendra Patel at the behest of Congress. He voluntarily came to us to join the BJP and then took a u-turn within hours. It proves that everything was pre-planned,” Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said on Monday.

At the press conference, Patel showed Rs1 million in cash to the media, claiming it was given to him as “advance” by former PAAS leader Varun Patel, who had joined the BJP on Saturday.

He alleged that the “entire deal was brokered by Varun”.

“He told me that I will get Rs1 crore [Rs10 million]. After meeting Vaghani at his house, I was taken to the state BJP headquarters on Sunday night where I was given Rs10 lakh as [Rs1 million] advance by Varun. I was told that I will get the remaining Rs90 lakh [Rs9 million] on Monday during a BJP function,” Patel alleged.

He said he followed Varun’s instruction and joined the BJP just to “expose” the party. “I can never betray my community. The BJP can’t buy me and my loyalty for the Patidar community,” he said.

Patel’s accusations came a day after two of Hardik Patel’s key aides - Varun Patel and Reshma Patel - joined the BJP, alleging that the quota agitation spearhead had become a “Congress agent” and was trying to use it to overthrow the present state government.

Savani, also a PAAS convener, aired his grievances with the BJP.

“When I joined BJP they promised me that they will resolve all the issues of the Patel community. But they had only made tall promises,” Savani said.

“Now they are trying to break the PAAS movement by offering money to its leaders,” Savani alleged, referring to Varun Patel and Reshma Patel joining the BJP. Varun Patel and Reshma Patel were among the prominent faces of the Hardik Patel-led PAAS and were critical of the ruling BJP during the agitation.

They joined the BJP on Saturday after a meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and state party chief Jitu Vaghani during its parliamentary board meeting, which was also attended by BJP president Amit Shah.

Last week, state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki had invited Hardik Patel to join the party.

Solanki promised to give an additional 20 per cent reservation to economically backward sections in the state if the Congress came to power after the upcoming assembly polls.

The Election Commission has said the state will go to polls before December 18. The BJP and Congress are pitted against each other in the crucial election.

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