BJP, opposition spar over Patel community support

Gujarat’s ruling BJP has claimed that members of the Patel community, including those taking part in the quota agitation, were again supporting the party, a claim denied by the opposition and a faction leader.

As many as 35 conveners of the Sardar Patel Group, mainly from north Gujarat region, on Wednesday called on Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in state capital Gandhinagar and declared their support to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the November 29 elections to local bodies, a party release said.

A delegation of supporters of the pro-quota Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and the SPG recently claimed to have joined the BJP.

Earlier in the week, the opposition Congress and the agitating Patels released press statements that claimed the community was turning against the very party it had supported for decades.

On Wednesday, SPG national convener Lalji Patel rubbished the claim of the 35 conveners, saying all of them were “self-appointed” and were in fact BJP workers.

He said their declaring support to the BJP was nothing but a party-sponsored move to divide the Patel community.

“Whoever does not condemn police excesses against Patel youths and the sedition charges against their leaders cannot claim to represent the Patidar community,” he added.

Earlier, many SPG leaders from Vijapur and Radhanpur areas too declared their support to the BJP.

This led to speculation in political circles that the ruling party has succeeded in winning over a section of the pro-quota agitation leadership to secure Patel votes in the local body elections.

Meanwhile, over 20 members of PAAS, including Vijapur convener Manoj Patel, have also written to the chief minister extending their support to the BJP.

Anandiben Patel faced protests by members of the Patel community, including women, during her election campaign tour of Mehsana, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts.