“Either free the country from reservation or make everybody the slave of reservation,” said Hardik Patel, 22, dressed in a half-sleeved white shirt and army combat trousers, at his office in Bopal on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
The agitation he launched demanding reservation for the Patels would continue till the government decided either way, he said in an interview to The Hindu on Thursday.
“Our people don’t get jobs despite scoring 80-90 per cent marks, so they are forced to do their own business because of this reservation system,” he said. Jobs were cornered by those from the reserved categories. “The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have reservation, yet they get jobs in the general quota, too,” he said.
Mr. Patel said he will work to change the politics and system in the country. “I am not here to do politics but to change it with the remote control. I will hold the remote control,” he said, citing Sardar Patel and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray as his role models.
Asked what would be his next course of action after the two-month agitation ended in violence that claimed nine lives, Mr. Patel said: “Seven million members of the Patel community who supported me would withdraw money from banks, stop supply of milk and vegetables. We can do many things.”
He blamed the police for the violence, which followed his brief arrest, forcing the State to call in the Army. “Nothing would have happened if they had not arrested [me].”
“I’d be happy if they call me Sardar Hardik”
Mr. Patel told The Hindu on Thursday: “The reality in Gujarat is vastly different from what is being projected. It is very much like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide. Go to the rural areas to see [it] for yourself.”
On the stir turning violent, Mr. Patel said the police were to blame. “The way the police acted sparked [violence]. They beat our people without provocation. They insulted and beat women,” he said, calling the action the second Jallianwala Bagh.
Mr. Patel ruled out talks with Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. “She has no power. She is in the chair, but somebody else is holding the power.”
After his agitation rattled the State government, Mr. Patel is being described as “Hardik Kejriwal” and “Hardik Modi.” But he said he would be “happy if they call me Sardar Hardik.”
Though he has denied that he is against the interests of the OBCs and other communities, Mr. Patel comes across as the champion of the Patel community. “Those who talk about the concerns of the Patels and Gujarat will rule us.”
He also denied getting funds from wealthy Patel NRIs. “Funds have been collected from members only.”
Mr. Patel set up a 12-member social media team that sent two million messages on Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook to drum up support for his agitation.