Hardik Patel, the nemesis for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coming Gujarat Election, is using the Patidar agitation days to remind his community and others who suffered due to the alleged atrocities of the administration and police machinery.
Hardik, an excellent orator, who addressed his first rally on 6 July 2015 at Visnagar in Gujarat and since has drawn millions across the state to talk to them for fighting for reservation for the Patidar community. Over the years, we have seen Hardik mature from a college lad, who studied at a commerce college in Ahmedabad and fought his first election for the post of general secretary of the college students’ union and was elected unopposed, into a leader with national outreach and a long queue of political parties willing to align with him politically.
The Patidar agitation that Hardik took to a crescendo on 25 August 2015, when he used his popularity and the social media reach, to amass a huge gathering of Patidars from all over Gujarat. A record number of about 8 lakh (a figure largely contested) community members flocked to the GMDC ground in Ahmedabad to force the state government accepts his demands. What transpired post that really is what made brand Hardik take a severe beating, but to mollify the arrogant and brash Patidar leader is easier said than done.
Today we see Hardik as a more focused person who is sticking to his script to incite and excite his community at large but youth specifically to ensure BJP’s rout in the Patidar dominated areas of the state. With 9 percent share in the electoral votes, Hardik knows he has all that is required to create relevant political space for himself.
In the last few weeks, we have seen a different side of Hardik. He has been meeting Congress politicians to discuss Patidar community support for the Congress but only on a pre-condition of agreeing to his demands. He has become more astute by being politically correct with his comments and not giving in or being in awe of the political bigwigs, from Rahul Gandhi to Kapil Sibal. He is more in command of his words, negotiates better and doesn’t jump guns easily.
Hardik now is reigniting the community youth to commit to the Patidar cause by actively using social media. PAAS’ social media group has actively started releasing a new campaign against the BJP reminding the followers of the use of force against protesters during the agitation. Photographs of lathi-charging by police on the protesters and the use of brutal force on the females are regularly being displayed.
The electoral speeches by Hardik are also now more on how the community must not forget the thrashing they were delivered with by the police at the instructions of the BJP bosses. Hardik repeatedly says in his public meetings that how the government was warned on the plight of the Patidars, how the police repeatedly lathi-charged the Patidar youth, he emphasizes by saying, “never forget it.”
However, Hardik’s journey has had his own drawback and backstabs. Varun Patel, one of the confidants of Hardik Patel, who recently joined BJP, gave an interview to a private news channel made an explosive revelation that the Congress Party was financially supporting Patidar Reservation movement since the beginning of the year.
Hardik is also showing astute behavior while negotiating with the Congress high command. He has not jumped on the opportunity but taking his own sweet time to strike a deal at his own terms. He has met senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal today, the details of which are expected to be out soon.
Varun also said that all the funding for the elections is also provided by the Congress to PAAS and that he was witness to this exchange of funds. Whether the revelations are true can’t be ascertained but it surely may raise questions within the Patidar community on Hardik’s intentions.
Another fence hopper Dr. Tejashree Patel, sitting MLA from Viramgam who defected from Congress to BJP during the recent Rajya Sabha poll, believes that if Hardik was to contest from Viramgam, he would lose. The views sound harsh for a young leader who has earned a space for himself in active politics and that too at such a young age. What becomes of Hardik, only time will tell, but he has made a mark for himself is a credit no one can take away from him.