Gujarat polls: Congress invites Hardik, Alpesh, Mevani to join hands

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"We respect as well as endorse the cause for which Hardik Patel is fighting". He said he was only 24 years old and underage to contest elections.

Hoping to garner support of various communities in Gujarat polls, state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki earlier in the day asked Hardik Patel, Thakor community leader Alpesh Thakor and dalit leader Jignesh Mevani to join hands with the party to defeat the ruling BJP.

Thakore, who has emerged as a strong OBC leader along with Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani during the last two years, announced his move in New Delhi after an evening meeting with Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi.

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"If Hardik Patel wants to contest election, then Congress invites him to do so", ANI reported Solanki as saying. Observers feel that Hardik staying away from a Congress-led platform may not necessarily inconvenience the opposition as his open embrace of Rahul Gandhi would have alienated members of a community which has for decades been hostile to Congress. Patel's presence inside the Congress tent could have also discomfited Thakore with the OBC leader's apprehensions about the quota agitation of Patels helping the former to carve out a niche for himself.

The 14th legislative assembly election in Gujarat is to be held by the end of 2017 as the term of 13th assembly ends on January 22, 2018. Solanki even promised to give an additional 20 per cent reservation to economically backward classes in the state if the Congress is voted to power in the upcoming assembly polls. We invite Hardik, PAAS workers and leaders and the Patidar community to join the Congress.

"Rahul Gandhi will take part in our rally on October 23 and I will join the Congress", he told reporters. "This what we all want to know, first explain us", he added. "Our fight is for the rights of farmers, for the society... not to contest elections", he said. The ruling BJP got a boost as two leaders from Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) shook hands with the party.

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JD (U)'s lone MLA Vasava, whose party has formed the government in Bihar with the support of BJP, had voted for Ahmed Patel, who eventually won the election. "We are ready to change our mind if they agree to the Congress on issues", Solanki said. "I feel Congress should leave this seat for us and in return we shall support them in the surrounding areas where we have popular support", he added.

Another youth Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani is reportedly in touch with top Congress leaders.

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