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Shiv Sena’s ‘Hardik’ Swagat

Hardik Patel to be Sena’s chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat as the party plans to challenge BJP in its bastion.

Shiv Sena has announced that Patidar reservation stir leader Hardik Patel will be the face of the party for the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls. Sena which until now had remained restricted to Mumbai and other regions of Maharashtra is keen to spread its wings in other states too for challenging BJP. Of late the relation between Sena and BJP has strained with the former giving hints of quitting the Fadnavis government in the state. By inducting Hardik Patel as Chief Ministerial candidate, Sena is trying to woo Gujarati voters who also comprise a sizeable chunk of Mumbai’s population. Even though Sena doesn’t have a proper electoral base in Gujarat, the party is keen to make its foray into the state which has been traditionally known as BJP’s bastion.

After arriving in Mumbai on Monday Hardik had a meeting with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at his Matoshree residence. Later both of them jointly held a press conference.

“A tiger is a tiger and it doesn’t need anybody’s support. Maharashtra is a land of brave men and I have arrived here to meet amicable leaders. Shiv Sena is capable of contesting in Mumbai on its own strength and will pose a tough challenge to its rivals,” said Hardik Patel.

“I have always been inspired by Balasaheb’s thoughts. His thoughts are inspiration for the youth. I am young and I have to learn a lot. I will support those parties which are keen to work for development,” he added.

Patel nonetheless ruled out campaigning for Shiv Sena despite supporting the party. Mr. Patel was recently in news after he vowed to make Gujarat a BJP- free state.

Uddhav Thackeray said Shiv Sena will try to expand its foothold in other states. He said, “After Goa and Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat could be next. If we contest in Gujarat, Hardik Patel will be our face. Politics will keep on happening but Hardik is our friend. When we make friendship we try to maintain it till the end. The Fadnavis government is on a notice period as on now.”

Chief Minister Fadnavis took a jibe at Sena and said, “Sena has become insecure hence it is trying to woo Hardik Patel. However, Hardik’s entry into Sena won’t make any difference to BJP. Before challenging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sena should first try to tackle me.”

Of late Sena has been trying to shed its pro-Marathi image by wooing Gujarati and north Indian voters to counter BJP. The party also has issued tickets to many Gujarati candidates.

Patel-led ‘Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti’ (PAAS) has been fighting for reservation for the powerful Patel community under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota in government jobs and educational institutions for more than a year.

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