In a setback to the Hardik Patel-led Patidar movement, two key figures of the quota agitation - Varun Patel and Reshma Patel - joined the ruling BJP on Saturday, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Gujarat.
Both Varun and Reshma were considered key aides of Hardik Patel were among the prominent faces of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and remained critical of the ruling BJP during the agitation.
Reshma had even sat on a hunger strike of 21 days beginning December 21, 2015 seeking release of Hardik Patel who was jailed on the charges of sedition.
They joined the BJP after a meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and state party chief Jitu Vaghani during its parliamentary board meeting, which was also attended by BJP president Amit Shah.
Soon after the two Patidar leaders joined the saffron party, Hardik sent out a cryptic tweet saying he will "continue to fight until the public is with me."
“The centipede will continue to run even after its legs are cut. I have people with me. I will continue to fight until the public is with me," Patel said.
After joining the BJP, the two Patidar leader told reporters that Hardik has become a "Congress agent" and was trying to use the agitation to overthrow the present state government.
"Our agitation was about getting reservation under the OBC quota, not about uprooting the BJP and bringing the Congress to power. While the BJP always supported the community and accepted a majority of our demands, Congress is only trying to use Patels as a vote bank. We do not want to be part of such malicious conspiracy," Reshma Patel said.
"This agitation was not of Hardik Patel's alone. He is now acting like a Congress agent. I and Varun are of the opinion that the BJP would definitely fulfil our demands," she said.
Varun Patel said the Patidar community will never allow the Congress party to take over the reins of Gujarat by inciting Patel youths.
"The BJP government (in the state) held talks with us in the past to resolve various issues. However, the Congress never held such talks, as they were not committed. We have decided to join BJP because we do not want to run the agitation by becoming Congress agents," said Varun Patel.
"The BJP government even promised us to represent the issue of reservation to the OBC Commission. BJP leaders also promised us to provide legal help in case we want to take up the matter with the Supreme Court," he added.
Unfazed by the announcement of his key aides, Hardik Patel said in a tweet he that will continue to fight for the people.
"The centipede will continue to run even if some of his legs break. People are with me, and I will continue to fight for them," he said.
The development on Saturday came hours after state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki invited Hardik Patel to join hands with the party. 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.
Hardik, who has so far been elusive to the offer, told India TV on Saturday that he is open to the officer but the ‘Congress party first should explain how it will give 20 per cent reservation and fulfil our demands’.
Patel also said that the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls is not a fight between the two (BJP and Congress) parties, but it is an election of six crore people.
“The Congress party must tell us clearly how it will fulfil our demands. Our fight is for the rights of farmers, for the society… not to contest elections,” he said.