Gandhinagar, October 24: In the political season of forming new allies for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, Patidar leader Hardik Patel reportedly met Congress leaders, including party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, at The Ummed hotel in the city on Monday. The meeting which lasted 40 minutes triggered speculation that the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener might join a “broader” anti-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

The meeting took place on the day Other Backward Class leader Alpesh Thakor joined the Congress at a rally in Gandhinagar. Also read: BJP Has Budget of Rs 500 Crore in Gujarat to Buy Those Campaigning Against it: Hardik Patel

The “secret” meeting reportedly took place after Hardik had claimed that he would not be able to meet the Amethi MP on Monday as he would be at a public function in Mandal town, 87 kms from Ahmedabad, the Times of India reported. Hardik reached Mandal around 7:30 PM to address the meeting and apologised for the delay.

Five CCTV clips, recorded between 11:53 PM on Sunday night and 4:14 PM on Monday, showed Hardik entering and leaving the hotel. The Gandhi scion was at The Ummed hotel from Monday morning. In the meantime, AICC member in-charge of Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot, had been holding meetings in the hotel since late Sunday evening.

Sources said Rahul met Hardik along with Nikhil Savani, the PAAS co-convener who had quit BJP on Monday, Alpesh, Gehlot and Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki at the hotel.

Hardik has admitted that he had met Congress leaders but denied meeting Rahul after the CCTV footage surfaced. “I have not met Rahul Gandhi, but I met Ashok Gehlot and Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki to discuss the issues affecting the Patidar community, including OBC quota,” Hardik said.

“Had I met Rahul, I would have met him in public, which would give me more mileage. Why should I meet Rahul secretly?” he asked.

Backing Hardik’s claim, Solanki said, “Hardik met me, Ashok Gehlot and other Congress leaders but not Rahul Gandhi. Though both were in the same hotel, they did not meet.”

According to the first two videos, Hardik is seen at the hotel entrance and then entering the elevator at 11:53 PM on Sunday with three others and exiting at 12:22 AM on Monday. Hardik returned to the hotel at 1:53 AM and is seen exiting the hotel accompanied by two other individuals at 4:14 PM on Monday. The fifth clip showed a person, who seems to be Hardik, seated in the backseat of a car, exiting the gate while covering his face with a handkerchief.