India File

Sardar Patel or Bal Thackeray?

Rutam Vora | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 31, 2015

Hardik Patel

Hardik Patel’s meteoric rise can’t mask his flip-flop on ideologue

Hardik Patel loves posing with guns, idolises the late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and shares views with 2002 Godhra riot convict Babu Bajrangi. One of his top quotes circulating in social media is this: “India is basically for Hindus. I have no problem if the Muslims want to live in India as APJ Abdul Kalam.”

Any other day, the 22-year-old could have been called a right-wing ideologue. But in a little over a month, Patel has meteorically risen as an anti-reservation crusader. Although he never sought a government job, Hardik has been critical of costly higher education.

In the political circles of Gujarat and rest of the country, many have been left baffled by the youngster’s journey from a nondescript town called Viramgam in Ahmedabad district, to the front pages of national dailies.

His father Bharat Patel, is a former member of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and a small-time businessman of submersible pumps.

Political acumen

In these initial days of his public career, Hardik has sent off differing signals. While some see a mature leader beyond his years, others dismiss him as a smart imitator. On August 25, at the rally of Patidars in Ahmedabad, Hardik took cognisance of the presence of the national media and addressed the rally in Hindi to take his message to ‘2.7 crore brethren across India.’ It is something that was done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom Hardik counts as one of his idols; another is Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Hardik has steered clear of politics, at least till now. “I am not a political person. I have realised that our community is at a disadvantage because we do not have reservation. Therefore, I am raising my voice. I am neither endorsing any party nor I will allow any politics to hamper our agitation," says Hardik, who founded Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in July. Earlier Hardik was a part of Sardar Patel Group (SPG), which was spearheaded by Lalji Patel, another Patidar leader. However, the two split later due to ideological differences and Hardik floated PAAS. But his flip-flops on ideologue have seen political leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, initially praising, and then distancing themselves from him. Hardik had claimed that he is the next Sardar Patel, as India’s first Home Minister was fondly called.

Most of Hardik’s supporters are as young as him and Hardik has used the social media to spread his word. His supporters circulated videos of speeches by ‘deprived’ students on Whatsapp and Facebook to gather support. Hardik has now shown aspirations to become a national figure. He has reached out to the Gurjars of Rajasthan and Jats from Haryana who have also been demanding reservation in government jobs. "We will make this a national movement. We will take our right," he says.

Published on August 31, 2015
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