Arrest warrant issued on Hardik Patel in Gujarat

A non-bailable arrest warrant has been issued against Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Hardik Patel and Lalji Patel in a two-year-old case related to violence at a rally.

The warrant was issued in relation to violence seen in the aftermath of a rally in Vishnagar town of Mehsana district in Gujarat on July 24, 2015.

A case was registered against the organizers of the rally, including officebearers of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Sardar Patel Group.

It is not clear whether the warrant was issued on the directions of a court.

The move can hurt the BJP’s electoral prospects in the state as it could be seen as cracking down upon political rivals to prevent them from campaigning in the upcoming elections to the state assembly.

After nearly 22 years of continuous BJP rule in Gujarat, opposition parties sense an opportunity in the upcoming election due to two factors.

First, this will be the first election in 15 years where the CM candidate will not be Narendra Modi, the tallest leader in the party.

Second, the state unit of the BJP has been lacking a clear leader since Modi left to take up the Prime Minister’s role in May 2014.

Poor leadership at the state level has led to the continuation of several agitations, such as that by Patidar communities seeking reservations in education and government jobs.

Hardik Patel, who is in his early 20s, was thrown up by the agitations that were at their peak in late 2015.

He is supposed to command some following in the Patidar community in the state, a traditional stronghold of the BJP.

Disenchanted with the way their demands were addressed, a large section of them are reported to be willing to look at rivals like Congress Party to ‘teach the BJP a lesson’.

Arresting Patel will almost certainly turn him into an anti-establishment hero and drive even more voters behind him.

Patel has so far not thrown his support behind the Congress Party, despite reportedly meeting Congress’ leader Rahul Gandhi at a hotel this week.

He has described the Congress party as a thief, but said a thief can sometimes be preferable to a mega-thief, referring to the BJP.

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