Ahmedabad: In view of reports claiming that Patidar community leader Hardik Patel had a secret meeting with Rahul Gandhi at a hotel in Ahmedabad, speculations are rife about Congress warming up to Gujarat’s powerful Patel community ahead of crucial assembly elections in the BJP-ruled state.
According to a Gujarati TV news channel, Hardik Patel had reportedly met Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, for about 40 minutes at The Ummed Hotel in the city on Monday.
The channel also aired video clips showing Hardik Patel entering and leaving the hotel where Rahul Gandhi was staying.
Notably, the Gandhi scion was seen at The Ummed from Monday morning, while AICC member in-charge of Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot, held a series of meetings at the same hotel since late Sunday evening.
The speculation about Hardik’s secret meeting with Rahul started doing the rounds after the Patel community leader claimed that he would not be able to meet the Gandhi scion on Monday morning as he would be at a public function in Mandal town. He reportedly showed up at the hotel arond 4 pm on Monday.
From there, Hardik then proceeded to Mandal around 7.30 pm to address a meeting and even apologised for the delay.
Interestingly, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor had also joined the Congress at a rally in Gandhinagar on Monday.
While the reports claimed that Hardik met Rahul at the hotel along with Nikhil Savani, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) co-convener who had quit the BJP on Monday, Gehlot categorically denied that any such meeting took place between the two.
Hardik Patel also reportedly denied meeting Rahul Gandhi and said that he instead met Ashok Gehlot and Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki to discuss the issues affecting the Patidar community, including OBC quota.
“Had I met Rahul, I would have met him in public, which would give me more mileage. Why should I meet Rahul secretly?” he was quoted as saying.
Solanki corroborated the statement, saying, “Hardik met me, Ashok Gehlot and other Congress leaders but not Rahul Gandhi. Though both were in the same hotel, they did not meet.”
Later, Gehlot, in a series of tweets, accused the Gujarat government of spying on Congress leaders.
“I condemn all the surveillance being done on the BJP’s orders,” Gehlot said, asking, “Why did the police take CCTV footage from the hotel?”
Speaking in the same vein, Gehlot tweeted, “Is the right to privacy, sole proprietorship of Jay Shah?”
He later tweeted, “Are Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani criminals or absconders? If that is so, BJP must clear its stand.”
Interestingly, the CCTV grabs were almost simultaneously telecast by all Gujarati TV channels, each one claiming it to be an exclusive.