Armed with the support of Gujarat’s political poster boy, Hardik Patel, the Shiv Sena is planning to jump into the fray in the Gujarat Assembly polls in December this year.
Uddhav Thackeray’s party plans to contest around 100 of the 182 seats in the Assembly. As the Patidar quota stir leader is two years shy of the required minimum age of 25, Patel will not be able to contest the election, but will be the party’s face for the polls. In 2012, the Shiv Sena had decided not to contest the Gujarat Assembly elections to avoid division of “pro-Hindutva” votes and had supported Narendra Modi’s BJP instead.
After an hour-long discussion with Patel at Matoshree, Thackeray said, “Our friendship with Hardik Patel will be lasting. Until the other person breaks relations with us, we do not leave their side. If needed, we will fight Gujarat Assembly polls as well and Hardik will be our face.”
To further cement the newly forged bond, Patel and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray are planning to address a joint rally in Mumbai before the February 21 BMC election.
While the date and place hasn’t been decided yet, Sena leaders say it will be held in a Gujarati dominated area in the Borivali-Kandivali zone.
Patel’s visit is being seen as significant especially since Sena has been actively wooing the Gujarati community in its fight against the BJP in the BMC elections. Party sources said that the Sena had started backroom talks with Patel last month and finally managed to convince him to come to Matoshree.
During their meeting, Patel apparently told Thackeray that BJP was on the decline in Gujarat and urged him to fight the polls in the state, said a Sena leader. “They had a long discussion on how the BJP could be tackled. Both were against the Modi-led government and its policies, especially demonetisation,” he added.
However, Sena has to tread cautiously as it does not want to antagonise the Gujarati community, which is largely in favour of Modi. Hence Patel has been asked not to target the prime minister directly but to hit out at the party’s policies instead.
“The Gujarati community still loves Modiji and we can’t afford to antagonise them just before the polls. Patel has been asked to take on the BJP and its bogus policies,” a Sena leader said.