At the peak of his popularity, during the Patidar agitation, Hardik Patel was too young to contest elections. He became eligible on turning 25, on July 23, 2018 . Now, when he is likely to get a Congress ticket, he is racing against time to clear the legal hurdles he faces.
According to the Representation of the People Act, his two-year sentence in a case of rioting from the time of the agitation bars him from contesting elections. He has desperately been seeking a stay on his conviction. With the Gujarat high court scheduling a hearing on his plea on March 26, Patel will be practically left with just nine days to overcome his disqualification. The final date for filing nominations for the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat is April 4.
Patel is, however, is hopeful of pulling through and expects that the HC will pass an order a couple of days after the hearing. He has a Plan B too. If the hearing is prolonged and the government seeks another adjournment, he intends to approach the Supreme Court immediately. “If I do not get an order from the high court soon, I will have to move the Supreme Court,” Patel said.
Sources said Patel’s advocates and supporters had sought advice from Congress leader and senior counsel Kapil Sibal earlier this week, soon after the HC granted another adjournment in the case.
Four days before joining the Congress, Patel had requested the high court to stay his conviction in a case concerning rioting and vandalism at the office of Visnagar BJP MLA, Rushikesh Patel, during one of the first rallies by Patidars under his leadership, on July 23, 2015.
In his application, Patel made it clear that he has a chance of winning the election but cannot contest till his conviction is suspended. Fifteen days have passed and the application is yet to be heard. The state government had twice sought time from the court to produce material opposing the application, which the court granted.
Patel’s advocates vehemently objected to the government’s request for more time, calling it a “delaying tactic” to make the pending litigation a roadblock in Patel’s electoral career.
The government, on the other hand, filed an affidavit and listed 24 FIRs registered against Patel over the last four years. It claimed that his repeated offences were a clear breach of the bail conditions set by the HC while releasing him in sedition cases. It maintained that the HC had not considered his request for suspension of conviction, but suspended only his sentence, when Patel filed an appeal last August.