Patidar quota agitation leader, Hardik Patel, formally joined Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday after quitting from the Congress as the party's working president for Gujarat unit on May 18.

Patel was welcomed into the saffron fold by Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil with a party scarf, while former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel handed him a saffron cap in presence of party leaders and Hardik's supporters at the State party headquarters in Gandhinagar.

"This isn't a ghar wapsi (back to roots) for me. I was already with my roots. While entering this party office, party workers said 'welcome home'." Patel said while addressing the media after joining the BJP. Patel's father late Bharat Patel had campaigned for former CM Anandiben Patel during election from Hardik's native Mandal constituency. "I will work as an ordinary party worker for the welfare of the State. Today, if there is someone who can work in the best interest of the country and the State, it is the BJP," Patel said.

The 28-year-old had led a fierce agitation seeking reservation for the communities not covered under the existing reservation mechanism.

The Patidar quota agitation which commenced during the Anandiben Patel regime in July 2015 managed to successfully mobilise massive support from the community Notably, in 2019 the Centre brought a constitutional amendment allowing 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) over and above the existing quota.

As a fallout of Patidar quota agitation, Hardik faces two sedition cases against him in Gujarat and is on bail since 2016. Patel had been vocal against the BJP, and the State and Central leadership terming them anti-youth and anti-poor.

"The movements are fought against the regime. And when it is for the society and people, we use words against the regime. It was after our fight that the government allowed the reservation. So, it is like a kid asking his parents for his rights. The resentment gets over when the demands are met," he said, crediting BJP for listening to the voice of the people.

Before joining the ruling party, Hardik tried to show his strength by mobilising his supporters and taking out a small roadshow . However, Hardik has been facing protests too. A few youths were reportedly detained by the police for allegedly conspiring to protest at Kamalam, the BJP office. Earlier, when Hardik had joined Indian National Congress, he was slapped in public by one of the community members in protest.

‘A new chapter’

Announcing his joining the BJP on Thursday, Hardik said he would start over a “new chapter” and that he would “work as a small soldier” under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier in the day, former Congress leader and a corporate face, 35-year-old Shweta Brahmbhatt joined BJP. Brahmbhatt is a former investment banker and a postgraduate from the University of Westminster, London. She had unsuccessfully fought the 2017 assembly elections on a Congress ticket from Maninagar constituency in Ahmedabad—once represented by Modi himself.

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