Vibrant Patels: Hardik leads the way, loses plot

Virendra Pandit | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

Hardik Patel has emerged on the Gujarat scene like a comet, taking the long-entrenched BJP Government by surprise. Never has the saffron state seen such a massive mobilization of masses from across Gujarat, in such a short time, since 1985 when the pro and anti-reservation social groups rocked the state. His has been a truly miraculous rise on the Gujarat firmament. 

Few had heard of Hardik until July 6 until he organized the first Patel rally in Mehsana — home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his bête noire Shankarsinh Vaghela, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and BJP President Amit Shah — to demand that the Patidars (Patels) be included in the list of over 140 castes under the OBCs and given reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.

Grinding halt

After force-multiplying his support base through 127 Patel rallies since, on August 25, the 22-year-old led an electrified crowd of “18 lakh” Patels in the financial capital of Gujarat, bringing business and normal life in Ahmedabad to a virtual grinding halt for many hours. He dared the “system”, invoked the Jantar Mantar spirit, praised Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and Andhra CM N. Chandrababu Naidu as  “our Patels”, and Arvind Kejriwal, and declared the Patels would defeat the BJP in Gujarat in the 2017 polls if their demands were not met. Also, like Narendra Modi, he chose to address the crowds and the media in Hindi language, apparently to reach out to those outside Gujarat. 

Then, he apparently lost the plot, and direction. After a long, meandering address, he sat on “dharna”, later dubbed “fast-unto-death”, with a few supporters, until the CM came on the podium to accept the memorandum. He then asked lakhs of Patels to take out a rally to the district collectorate. As the Patels trooped out, only a few hundred remained at the venue, GMDC Grounds. Most of them soon left for their respective homes, apparently clueless, about the next course of action. Within two hours, the massive crowds virtually vanished from the streets of Ahmedabad, leaving behind piles of garbage, and a few violent incidents.  

Fizzled out

Within hours, Lalji Patel, a lawyer-activist of the same movement, challenged him, declared his Sardar Patel Group (SPG) was “different” from the Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and criticized the youngster. But, by afternoon, Hardik had become the second-most trended person on micro-blogging site Twitter. The campaign he led, however, may have fizzled out, for the time being. It remains to be seen if Hardik could still spring a surprise, or a “twist” as he proclaimed time and again from the podium.

Born on July 30, 1993, at Viramgam, Ahmedabad district, Hardik is the son of a BJP leader, an agriculturist who runs a small business of submersible pumps. After graduating with a B. Com. degree from Sahajanand College, Ahmedabad, Hardik ran a water supply business for some time and became a ‘social activist’ and supporter of Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) led by former CM Keshubhai Patel, and then the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He also played cricket for Baroda district team for a time. 

Although charismatic, Hardik could not, apparently, hold on to his popularity. Some dubbed him as an ‘unnatural leader’ as he often kept quiet when asked ‘uncomfortable’ questions. 

But one thing is clear: he has kept the Gujarat Government on tenterhooks for nearly two months, something no other political or social leader has been able to do in decades!

Published on August 25, 2015
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