In Act Of Defiance Against BJP, Hardik Patel Shows Up In Court

In Act Of Defiance Against BJP, Hardik Patel Shows Up In Court

AHMEDABAD: Hardik Patel, the 24-year-old in Gujarat who is leading a campaign against the ruling BJP, showed up today in a court that had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for him for allegedly damaging public property during a mass agitation that he led two years ago.

That's when the young college grad galavanized thousands of members of his Patidar community to demand inclusion in the groups that benefit from affirmative action policies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state.

Hardik Patel's arrival in court was designed, as with much else of his politics, to surprise. Last night, he said, "I am ready to surrender if police wants to arrest me."

The warrant against him was issued for ignoring earlier orders to appear in court.

Hardik Patel shirks being called a politician, insisting that he is an activist. But he has pledged to work towards ending the BJP's two-decade-long run in Gujarat and is campaigning through the state to ask for the party's defeat. Over the weekend, he commissioned a major controversy after denying that he met Congress boss Rahul Gandhi at a luxury hotel in Ahmedabad. Then, leaked CCTV footage from the hotel, appeared to prove that the consult did take place, allowing the BJP to claim that for all Hardik Patel's denials, he is working in league with the Congress.

Hardik Patel's close aide Dinesh Bambhania said, "On the one hand the BJP government in the state talks about withdrawing cases against Patel activists and on the other this happens." He was referring to the state government's recent outreach to leaders of the Patel or Patidar agitation at a meeting called by Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and attended also by Hardik Patel.

The meeting was seen as an attempt by the BJP to build bridges ahead of assembly elections with the powerful Patel community which has been a loyal support base of the party for years, but is upset about not getting a guaranteed share of government jobs and seats in state-run colleges.

Hardik Patel, who spent months in jail on stringent charges like sedition after he launched his movement in 2015, was released last year on bail on the condition that he would not enter Gujarat for six months. That deadline ended early this year and he has since intensified his attacks on the BJP.

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