Gandhinagar: The Patidar community is largely with the BJP and quota agitation leader Hardik Patel has lost support, Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel has said.
Patel also said that the Bharatiya Janata Party government was not facing anti-incumbency even after ruling the state for over 20 years.
The Congress, the main opposition, was beset with factions ahead of assembly polls this year, the BJP leader said in an interview to IANS.
Patel said Patidaar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel had drawn support initially in the movement for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the Patels, but the situation had changed.
“Earlier there were more people (with Hardik) as they felt they may get something. Then people saw that what the government is doing is right.
“They felt that people from our community in the government and the BJP were saying the right thing. The community is accepting what we are telling them. Now (support for him) is considerably less,” Patel said.
Hardik Patel, 23, has been spearheading an agitation since July 2015 for quotas for the Patel community in education and government jobs.
Nitin Patel, considered the Patidar face of the government, said the agitation was at its peak at one stage. “Now they have gone slow. There is no one except the agitators.”
“The whole community is seeing that they have joined hands (with Congress). It is good for us. It has become clear to the community that Hardik’s people are speaking the language of the Congress to damage the BJP.”
Asked what section of the Patel community was with the BJP, he said: “Major.”
He said the resentment among Patels had been addressed by the government.
“We started the Mukhyamantri Swamlamban scheme for students from castes that do not get benefit of reservation, including Patidars,” he said. Scholarships are provided under the scheme.
Patel said the demand for quotas had to be pursued legally and the OBC Commission would decide on the petitions before it.
Asked about Hardik Patel’s demand for a Patidar Commission, he said the Commission won’t be only for Patidars. “If it is to be done, it should be for all those who do not get benefit of reservation.”
A senior leader of the Gujarat BJP, Patel was seen as a possible successor to Anandiben Patel after she resigned as Chief Minister last year. He became Deputy Chief Minister and Vijay Rupani the Chief Minister.
Patel said there was groupism in the Congress in Gujarat and it had no acceptable leader.
“When tickets will be distributed, there will be 10 times more infighting,” he said, adding the Congress was not a challenge for the BJP.
Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela was “very unhappy” in his party, he said. Asked if he would join the BJP, Nitin Patel said: “It is for him to decide.”
“Any person who expresses faith in BJP policies can come to the party,” he said, adding that the BJP had set a target of winning more than 150 seats in the 182-member assembly.
He said the BJP government had taken forward work done by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister and also taken some new initiatives.
He said there was a lot of scope for the defence sector in Gujarat under the Make in India initiative.
He said the Modi government had cleared pending demands of Gujarat, including raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Asked if Modi would be the face of the party in the Gujarat polls, Nitin Patel said he was the face in the entire country. “People are happy listening to Modi’s name all over the country because he has created that faith.”