Ending speculation over his next move, Hardik Patel joined the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) on Thursday.

The Patidar youth leader, who shot to fame in 2015 for spearheading the reservation movement in Gujarat, had left Congress on May 19. Former Congress leader Shweta Brahmbhatt also joined the saffron party.

Before joining the BJP in the presence of senior party leaders, Hardik held a road show from Koba to Kamalam, the BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar. Gujarat BJP state chief C.R. Patil welcomed the Patidar leader to the Saffron fold.

Before joining the BJP, Hardik tweeted, “I am starting a new chapter from today, keeping in mind the interest of the nation, the state, the

people and the larger society. I shall work as a ‘small soldier’ to contribute to the greater cause of nation building that is going on under the leadership of India’s great Prime Minister Shri Narendra Bhai Modiji.”

However, when he addressed the media after joining the party, his political volte face was questioned by media persons. Hardik was reminded of his sharp criticism of the top BJP leadership after the state government took a hard stance against the Patidar movement for reservations and clamped down on him. Shouldn’t he apologize for betraying the people, he was asked.

However, Hardik refused to apologize. “I was fighting for the people,” he said. The Anandiben Patel-led Gujarat government had then accused Hardik of fomenting trouble in the state and slapped cases on Hardik during the Patidar quota agitation and even arrested him. The move backfired with Hardik emerging as a strong contender to the BJP in state politics, putting Anandiben in a tight spot. The then chief minister resigned in 2016 a year and half before her tenure was to end in 2017 with assembly elections.

Hardik joined Congress in the presence of Rahul Gandhi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and was made working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee in 2020. However, the young Patidar had been sulking as he felt the Congress leadership was sidelining him while making important decisions.

Things came to a head when he did not join the three-day brain storming Chintan Shivir held in Udaipur in May and he eventually quit the party on May 19, accusing the Congress leaders from Delhi worrying more about ‘chicken sandwiches’.