Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel will be Shiv Sena's face in Gujarat if the party contests the upcoming Assembly elections at the end of this year, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said today. In the evening, he will address a rally in Mumbai's western suburbs.
The news came days after Shiv Sena announced its separation with ally Bharatiya Janata Party in the Mumbai civic polls.
Mr. Thackeray had on Monday challenged Mr. Modi to campaign for the BMC polls to which Mr. Fadnavis had replied that the Sena chief should first try to tackle him. But nothing has been decided or discussed yet.
The move to bring in Patel, it is being said, is because Sena is anxious about the support BJP has among Gujaratis in Mumbai, and wants to counter the same. The BJP in Maharashtra has 123 seats, 22 short of a simple majority, and the Shiv Sena, with 63 seats, is part of the ruling alliance.
In fact, the Gujarati vote is significant enough to sway the results for the 40-odd seat BMC, which is the country's richest municipal body with a 37,000 crore-budget. "I have grown up idolising Bhagat Singh and Balasaheb Thackeray, and I am extremely happy to be in the land of Veer Savarkar", he said. He said that he was here to seek the blessings of late Bal Thackeray, a great leader he had always idolized. After his return last month, the young campaigner pledged to ensure the defeat of the BJP in the Gujarat polls. What Sena is banking on is a minor split in the 15 lakh strong Gujarati electorate from BJP in BMC elections. Shiv Sena, which too claims to have distributed 120 Form B, is still not clear how many of its candidates have actually filled the forms.
The Gujarati population comprises of 18 percent of the total electorate in Mumbai. Patel's support at this juncture comes as a huge shot in the arm for Sena as the 23-year-old is a household name in neighbouring Gujarat for spearheading the Patel agitation. He was jailed for his massive campaign, demanding job quotas for the Patel community, which turned violent.
In July previous year, Patel was charged with sedition charges following which Gujarat High Court had ordered that he be exiled for six months.