Ahmedabad: In a major setback for young Patidar leader Hardik Patel, now with the Congress, the Gujarat high court on Friday rejected his application for a stay on his conviction in a 2015 rioting case.
Mr Patel will not be able to contest the Lok Sabha election as the Representation of People’s Act does not permit a convicted person to take part in the polls. The Congress had intended to field him from the Jamnagar Lok Sabha constituency.
In 2017, Mr Patel was convicted by a local court and sentenced to two years in prison in a case of rioting in Visanagar of North Gujarat during agitation for reservations for the Patidars. His sentence was suspended and he was granted bail.
On March 8, Mr Patel filed an application in the high court to stay his conviction so that he could fight the election. The Gujarat government had opposed the petition in court, arguing that he had broken the law many times in the past and a law-breaker shouldn’t be allowed to be a law-maker.
Reacting to the court ruling, Mr Patel said, “I accept the judgment, but my question to the BJP is why it is stopping a 25-year-old leader from contesting the election? Is it my fault that I didn’t bow to them? I am not scared, I will continue to fight for the people.” After joining the Congress in presence of party president Rahul Gandhi on March 12 at a public rally in Ahmedabad, Mr Patel had made it clear that he was willing to contest the Lok Sabha election from Jamnagar in Saurasthra. He had started meeting party workers there.
The Congress’ idea of fielding Mr Patel from Jamnagar was to attract Patel votes. In 2017, during the Gujarat Assembly election, Mr Patel and his supporters of the Patel Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had helped the Congress increase its tally.
Now that it is clear that Mr Patel cannot contest, the Congress intends to use his strengths in the campaign. His name has been included in the list of star campaigners of the party for Uttar Pradesh.
Sources close to Mr Patel said he may move the Supreme Court challenging the high court ruling. The last date to file nominations for all 26 seats in Gujarat is April 4, and polling to be held on April 23 in the third phase.
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