The Patidar leader’s agenda was perilous and filled with limitations. Hardik Patel joins a list of demagogues in the subcontinent who pick up an ethnic, religious or caste group’s grievance and build it into a persecution complex.
The highlight of the Gujarat elections was the rise of three young leaders. Two, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor, are now MLAs. But the third and the most popular, Hardik Patel, failed to deliver.
I had foreseen the perils in his agenda and the limitations of his political talent and potential in this August 2015 piece when his Patel campaign was at its peak:
It is unfortunate how the rise of Hardik Patel has polarised public opinion and the commentariat on the basis of whether or not you like Narendra Modi.
If you like Modi, the Patel agitation is a grand conspiracy hatched by Ahmed Patel or Arvind Kejriwal, or probably both.
If you are against Modi, Hardik Patel is a new revolutionary, as if Bhagat Singh had returned to get India its second freedom, this time from the BJP and Modi.
Both are wrong, and dangerous.
Any issue should be judged on merit. This is a very disruptive agitation with no real demands. There is no possibility of any more reservations, and Patels need that least of all. There is nothing in Hardik Patel’s method, speech or style that justifies hailing him as a rising new voice of social empowerment or democratic politics.
He is a demagogue who flaunts firearms, near-violent rhetoric and harks back to a totally outdated politics. He can be no secular mascot.
At the same time, he is too much of an original to be somebody else’s puppet or plant. Everything about him tells me that he is more like a Patel version of Raj Thackeray. Try imagining Raj Thackeray with a million-strong crowd of supporters.
The subcontinent specialises in producing this very unique brand of demagogue who can pick up a well-defined ethnic, religious or caste group’s real and imagined grievance and build it into a persecution complex.
Among those I have seen are Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Jat leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, Altaf Hussain of the MQM in Pakistan, Gurkha leader Subhash Ghisingh and Gujjar chieftain Col. Kirori Singh Bainsla (retd). They achieved immediate adulation of their masses, but in the end did nothing for them. They only left destruction and violence in their wake before fading away.
I am afraid that is the future I see for young Hardik Patel. So nobody, whether friend or foe of Modi, should see much of a future in him.