Ahmedabad: Leader of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Hardik Patel, has emerged as the biggest challenge to the BJP government in Gujarat. He though maintains that he will not contest election but the BJP has been trying to pacify him through back channels or weaken his organisation by winning over his close aides, said media reports.
But what made Hardik the leader he is today? Till the first half of 2015, Hardik Patel was an almost unheard character. He suddenly appeared on the national television screens with huge rallies across Gujarat fiercely demanding reservation for Patel-Patidars.
According to media reports, Hardik Patel spent his childhood in rural Ahmedabad. Before turning to caste-based activism, Hardik Patel helped his father run a small submersible water pump business at Viramgam in Ahmedabad. Reports suggest that he graduated from Ahmedabad’s Sahajanand College with grace marks securing less than 50 per cent numbers.
In 2010, Hardik Patel, then 17, joined the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), an outfit for Patidar youths. Hardik Patel benefitted from the interaction with a group of 50,000 members. He impressed the leaders of the SPG with his oratorical skills. Within a month, Hardik Patel was the president of the Sardar Patel Group’s Viramgam branch.
At the SPG, Hardik Patel learnt that the economic slowdown had affected the Patidar youths adversely. Their agriculture showed decline. The Patidar businessmen faced failures in their traditional businesses due to fierce competition from online outlets. The Patidars did not get jobs easily due to tough competition and reservation to OBCs and other classes. These were startling discoveries for a young Hardik Patel.
He was getting more agitated at the Sardar Patel Group leading to rift with the senior leaders. Finally, in 2015, Hardik Patel was thrown out of the SPG following a conflict with its leader Lalji Patel.
Then a significant event changed Hardik Patel’s life completely. In 2015, two years after Hardik Patel graduated, his sister Monica joined the Bachelor of Arts Degree in English. The same year, Monica failed to secure a government scholarship. This wasn’t a welcome news for Hardik Patel. He soon came to know that a friend of Monica, who secured less marks in the qualifying examination, got the same scholarship through OBC quota.
This was the turning point in Hardik Patel’s life as an activist. He had already been ousted by the Sardar Patel Group. He now launched Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PASS) in July 2015. The objective of the PAAS was to secure OBC quota for Patidars while remaining apolitical.
Hardik Patel took to social media for promotion and attracting Patidar youths from all across Gujarat. He organised his first public rally at Visnagar in Mehsana district – the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Hardik Patel claimed in his rallies that “a Patidar student with 90 per cent marks does not get admission in an MBBS course while SC, ST or OBC students get it with 45 per cent marks.”
Soon, he was addressing rallies across the state. His Surat rally was reportedly attended by 4.5 lakh people. Hardik Patel’s massive rallies became too frequent and uncomfortable for the Gujarat government. His rallies at Gandhinagar, Rajkot and Vadodara brought him in the national headlines.
Hardik Patel also engaged with Kurmi and Gujjar communities from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in an attempt to form a bigger group of Patidar community. He also formed the Patel Navnirman Sena to launch a national level stir.