Two months ago, few had heard of Hardik Patel, a 22-year-old youth belonging to a middle class family from Viramgam town in Ahmedabad district, but now he has become a household name in Gujarat with his agitation seeking reservation benefits for the Patels, a politically and economically powerful community, galvanising the entire community .
Mr. Patel has become the face of the movement, which has emerged as a huge challenge to the State BJP government dominated by Patel community leaders including Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and party chief R.C. Faldu.
In early July, Mr. Patel floated Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which organised its first rally in Visnagar town on July 6. Since then, the agitation has become a mass movement with thousands of youngsters coming out to support the demand.
Mr. Patel and his agitation are posing a challenge to the ruling establishment with the local bodies’ elections scheduled to be held in two months. “He launched the agitation two months before the local elections so the government will feel rattled because of the mass support it is drawing,” a top bureaucrat told The Hindu .
Mr. Patel and his group consisting mainly of youngsters, who are aggrieved by the high cost of education and fewer government jobs, have extensively used social media platforms such as Facebook, Watsapp, and Twitter to organise support from the masses.
“He saw a huge vacuum in the leadership of the community because the established leaders associated with political parties have not been able to raise social issues,” said Varun Patel, a 29-year-old Varun Patel, a member of PAAS.
According to Suryakant Patel, a participant who came from a village in central Gujarat, the anger was simmering in the community but there was nobody to take the initiative but now Hardik at the helm, a huge movement has erupted on the streets.
“This agitation is as much against the established leadership who has started taking the community’s support for granted while developing business interests like many Patel leaders owning self financed colleges and private universities,” said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
“I don't know him (Hardik) and haven't met him either but I came here all the way from Surat to support him because he is fighting for a good cause,” said Manoj Patel, a businessman running a textiles export business in Surat.
Simple looking and always dressed in trousers and shirt, Patel appears as a typical Patel yup get boy brimming with ambition and energy. In last 50, he travelled in most of the important towns in the state to galvanise the community.
On Tuesday, while addressing the mammoth rally in Ahmadabad, he exhibited his ambition also when he said in his speech that “we will go to Jantar Mantar also to raise our demand of the state government does not offer the solution,” indicating that he wants to take the agitation nationally. He also said that Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandra Babu Naidu and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, also belong to the Patidar community, which is 27 crore spread in eight states in the country.