Support for Hardik Patel isn’t about reservations, it’s about discontent against BJP

A graphic showing Patel leader Hardik Patel

Will Gujarat voters fall for unrealistic Patidar promises?

Is Hardik Patel merely a salesman of unrealistic dreams? Is he duping Patidars by giving false promises of reservation? Is he a ‘traitor’ who has sold Patidar votes to the Congress? And are the people of Gujarat gullible enough to support a leader like Hardik?

First things first. The general gullibility of people is evident from the fact that the BJP has ruled Gujarat for more than two decades now, and continues to enjoy a huge following. A crafty combination of pride, pomp, and fear (of Muslims) has done wonders for the BJP.

The huge support to Hardik Patel indicates something other than gullibility. Perhaps, it signals the end of gullibility, for some sections. At least for now.

The second phase of the Patidar movement began when the sedition-accused Hardik Patel came back to Gujarat after staying away for six months as per court orders. The anti-BJP narrative has been building up since then. It is worthwhile to remember that Jignesh Mevani, the face of Dalit protests in Gujarat, went all the way to Himmatnagar to welcome Hardik. Mevani was right there on the dais when Hardik addressed his first rally after coming back.

The anti-BJP narrative of phase-2 was not perceived as a Congress-sponsored act despite the BJP propaganda machine working overtime. It was seen as an effort to channelise discontent against the failure of the so-called ‘Gujarat model’.

Here are other sharp perspectives on Patidar reservation promise:

Manisha Priyamassociate professor, National University for Educational Planning and Administration

Observers felt Hardik 2.0 had matured and become much more open in addressing other sections of society. The BJP tried every dirty trick from circulating a ‘sex CD’ to creating fissures among Hardik’s close group.

But nothing seems to work against Hardik. He gets premium coverage in local media, comparable only to Modi and Rahul. It is generally accepted that the huge crowds in Hardik’s meetings are not ‘managed’. Other sections of society are showing up at his meetings, and have started seeing him as a face who has challenged the arrogance of the BJP government. His decision not to join the Congress and his occasional warnings to the Congress have helped.

It may sound ironic, but Hardik no longer represents the Patidar reservation movement. He has rebranded himself as a symbol of people’s discontent for BJP rule, and from the huge crowds at his meetings, one can safely say he has got many takers.

Urvish Kothari is a senior columnist and writer in Ahmedabad.



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