Exactly three years since the Patidar reservation stir turned violent after a mammoth rally in Ahmedabad, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti convener Hardik Patel is yet again at loggerheads with the Gujarat government. Having being denied permission to organise an indefinite fast that he has termed the “Vijay Sankalp” programme, Hardik says he will organise the fast in the compound of his own house on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
The indefinite fast programme, which Hardik claims is the second phase of his agitation to ensure reservation for the Patidar community, marks a month long Patidar Shahid Yatra, that has passed throughout the state. Hardik has stated that while the demand of reservation will be the core issue of the agitation, farmers’ issues like crop insurance, compensation for losses and waiver of loans will also be taken up.
Many political observers believe this is a concerted attempt by the Patidar leader to prepare the ground for his entry into active politics, possibly by contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha election. However, Hardik has stated a couple of times in the past few months that he has no intention of contesting the 2019 poll. While campaigning against the ruling BJP during the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, Hardik had categorically stated that he will not join politics for another two-and-a-half years. It has been close to a year since he made that statement.
The Congress party has been standing by Hardik in all his agitations so far. Whether it is the patidar Shahid Yatra or the indefinite fast that he has announced from August 25, the party has announced that it whole heartedly supports all the agitations being done by the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti.
“The Congress has stated this earlier too and it is our stand. Before the assembly elections, we had even stated that a special reservation formula would be worked out for the Patidar community if we were voted to power. The Congress is supporting the agitation,” GPCC chief Amit Chavda said last week.
And although Hardik has not stated in as many words whether he will join the Congress or not, it seems the Congress is his best bet whenever he decides to foray into electoral politics. In the meantime, the Congress is working out a campaign strategy, where Hardik will address election rallies for the party in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which go to polls in a few months from now.
Senior journalist and political commentator Dr Hari Desai feels the present moves by Hardik are purely driven by self-interest and with the aim of securing and winning a seat in the forthcoming general elections. “This has reached a stage where everybody is beginning to now question the motives of these persons who claim to be fighting for reservation. I believe that just a fraction of the Patidar community, especially misguided youth, are with Hardik Patel. The majority of the Patidar community may not openly criticise him, but that does not imply that a majority support him either,” Desai told News18.
Desai, who has covered politics in Gujarat and across the country for several decades, says that satyagrahas organised by leaders like Gandhi and Sardar Patel were effective because of two reasons. They studied the ground realities in detail and had absolutely no personal interest in their agitations.
“In this case, it is exactly the opposite. Hardik is being used by vested interests across the political spectrum for their own gains. The ouster of Anandiben Patel as Gujarat Chief Minister is a classic example of how people within the BJP used Hardik’s agitation to settle political scores. In case of the Congress, it is looking to ride piggy-back on his agitations,” Desai added.