NEW DELHI: Trouble is brewing in Gujarat with fissures between Amit Shah backed Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel growing after the BJP setback in Karnataka and the recent byelections.

The Patel community that had brought the state to a halt over the demand for reservation is again getting restive. Young Patidar leader Hardik Patel has now announced a fresh agitation appealing directly to the Deputy CM Nitin Patel to resign and join the protests. Political speculation that Patel might quit the BJP is rife in the state, with 20-25 dissident MLA’s expected to “leave” with him.

Earlier in December last year Hardik Patel had urged Nitin Patel to quit and join the Congress.”Bring just ten BJP MLAs with you” he had said. The deputy CM despite the publicised differences has been toeing the line but the recent setback in the elections that has gone directly into BJP President Amit Shah’s account, has again emboldened his supporters to reach out.

Sources in the state confirmed the rift between the CM and his deputy. Hardik Patel at a Patidar meeting recently invited the community legislators from the Congress, and announced his decision to start the protests afresh with a jail bharo andolan. Hardik Patel, feeding into the Patel resentment, said on Saturday last, “Are we asking for gold biscuits? We are just asking for admissions and jobs. And, we are fighting against those who are responsible of killing thousands of people.” He told the 14 Congress MLAs who turned up for his meeting, “We have expectations from you. You have to become our voice in the assembly. Today you are 14 (total Patidar MLAs in the Congress). Tomorrow you will be 32. But if you will not support the community, then community will no longer support you.’’

In the December 2017 polls in Gujarat Patels Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti had supported the Congress. Nitin Patel has been approached the sources said, by the Congress to form the government as the Chief Minister with the support of the party’s 81 MLAs from outside. The BJP has 99 MLA’s in the state Assembly. Significantly, the party that earlier had 115 legislators lost considerably in the Patidar belt in Gujarat, particularly in Saurashtra.

Nitin Patel has been denying these reports that, however, refuse to die down. More so as Shah handpicked Rupani over him to succeed Anandiben Patel, despite the former being a political lightweight in Gujarat. He was not even being considered for a top portfolio at the time of government formation and had to bring all his community clout into play to be allocated Finance. The rivalry between him and Rupani has kept the BJP divided in the state, with the CM being perceived as Shah’s protegee.

Meanwhile Hardik Patel is keeping up the pressure, on the Patidar elected representatives and Nitin Patel. He has not joined the Congress party, maintains a distance, but at the same time is working against the BJP with a recent tour of Madhya Pradesh drawing a good response. So good that as he said, the BJP was worried with eggs being thrown at him just recently in Jabalpur. But a defiant Patel on Facebook laughed this off, and claimed that this demonstrated BJP worry.