The Gujarat High Court ruling on March 29 had effectively barred Patel from contesting the Lok Sabha elections, which will be held from April 11 to May 19. Patel has till April 4 to file his nominations to contest in the polls in Gujarat, which will be held on April 23. He is said to be keen on contesting from the Jamnagar seat.
In July 2018, a court in Mehsana district had sentenced Patel and two of his aides to two years in jail for rioting and arson in Visnagar town in 2015 during a protest led by him to seek reservations for his community, the Patidars. The Patidar leader was held guilty of leading a mob that had vandalised a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator’s office in Visnagar.
The High Court had later granted Patel bail and suspended his jail sentence, but his conviction remained valid.
Patel, who joined the Congress on March 12, moved the High Court earlier this month seeking a stay on his conviction on the grounds that he wanted to contest the elections. The Representation of the People Act bars those who have been convicted on various criminal charges from contesting elections for several years.
The state government, however, opposed his plea, producing photographic evidence and documents to show that Patel was present at the time of the incident. The state government further claimed that Patel is a repeat offender and faces 17 first information reports in the state, according to PTI.
After the verdict, Patel, in a series of tweets, said that he respects the court’s decision but accused the BJP of working against the Constitution. He said that several BJP leaders face criminal charges too, but the law has only barred Opposition forces. “My only fault is that I have not bowed down to the BJP. This is the result of fighting power,” he claimed.
Before he joined the Congress, Patel’s outfit, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, had led protests in BJP-ruled Gujarat in 2015 to demand Other Backward Class status and 27% reservation in government jobs and education for the Patidar or Patel community. The Gujarat Police had filed a sedition case against him, for which he spent nine months in jail, from October 2015 to July 2016.
Hardik Patel turned 25 last year, making him eligible to contest the Lok Sabha elections for the first time.