Ahmedabad: Exactly three years after the August 25, 2015 rally that ended with widespread pro-reservation violence in Gujarat, Patidar reservation leader Hardik Patel has embarked on an indefinite fast.
The 2015 Patidar protests did not yield the desired results of reservation, but this time around the primary intention of Hardik’s protest is different. He appears to be setting himself up for a role in politics, one that may end up in getting a Congress ticket for the forthcoming general elections.
A variety of factors point to this presumption. The primary being that the Patidar reservation stir has gradually weakened and has showed no signs of a reversal.
Secondly, Hardik faces prosecution and possible conviction in a number of cases, which includes charges as serious as sedition.
The most important, however, is that the general election is not too far away and Hardik Patel is now old enough to contest an election.
Monday was the third day of his indefinite fast at Greenwood Garden City on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. His number of supporters at the site were less than 300.
Several MLAs of the Congress, along with those from the RJD and the TMC, have visited him. TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi even carried a ‘Rakhi’ sent by Mamata Banerjee for Hardik.
The Congress has thrown its weight behind Hardik and a delegation of Congress leaders visited the Governor and handed a memorandum criticising the BJP government for not allowing him to fast at a venue in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar. They argued it is his constitutional right and PAAS (Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti) had applied for permission but their request was rejected.
The BJP has called the protest ‘Congress-sponsored’ and an attempt to disturb peace in the state.
Political commentators like Dr Hari Desai believe this newest fast programme is nothing more than an attempt to project himself as a politician.
“Already his motives are under question from several quarters. I believe that only a small fraction of the Patidar community is now with Hardik Patel. People from the community might not criticize him openly, but that does not imply that he has their support either. In such a scenario, he is looking to piggy-back on the Congress and secure his own political future,” he told News18.
In his defense, Hardik insisted that his present agitation has nothing to do with his own political ambitions and that the indefinite fast is being undertaken for the twin objectives of Patidar reservation and waiver of farm loans in the state.
He blamed the BJP government for making all efforts to ensure that PAAS volunteers are prevented from reaching his house. “First, the state government does not grant us permission to fast at any spot in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar. Then over 16,000 PAAS volunteers have been arrested since Friday. My house itself has been surrounded by cops as if this were Jallianwala Baag,” he said.
Cops, however, said only 250 PAAS volunteers have been detained since Friday and only those who had a record of creating trouble are being detained as a preventive measure.
DGP of intelligence bureau, RB Brahmbhatt, said in Gandhinagar that the state government and the DGP have issued clear instructions to units across the state to deal severely with those who attempt to breach law and order anywhere in the state.
Brahmbhatt added that it was decided not to give permission to Hardik for a rally after careful consideration.
“Permission was granted for his rally on August 25, 2015 on the condition that it will be peaceful, but widespread violence broke out across the state then. Even during his day-long fast a week ago on August 19, one bus was set ablaze and two other buses were damaged in Surat. Hence permission has not been granted,” he stated.