Gujarat is a state of India who produced a galaxy of leaders and their contribution to nation-making and Indian politics is immiscible. Gujarat is land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar patel who nurtured society and politics of the state as well as they played an unmatchable role for Indian Freedom struggle. Gujarat has given the two Prime Minister- Morarji Desai and Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi ruled single-handedly for Seventeen years before arriving to New Delhi and BJP through his stewardship reached every nook and corner of the state but the saffron juggernaut has been disrupted the Patel power led by Twenty-three years old firebrand leader Hardik Patel.
Who is Hardik Patel?
Hardik Patel was born on 20 July 1993 in a Gujarati Patidar family to Bharat and Usha Patel. In 2004 his parents moved to Viramgam, a town 11 km away, to give their children a better education. Hardik studied from Class VI to Class VIII at Divya Jyot School in Viramgam, before moving to K B Shah Vinay Mandir, where he studied until Class XII. He was an average student and a cricket enthusiast.
In 2010, Patel joined Sahajanand College, Ahmedabad and earned a Bachelor of Commerce (B. Com.) degree. He ran for the post of general secretary of the college students’ union and was elected unopposed. While still in college, Patel opened a potable water stand at the Viramgam Bus Stand as an act of social service. In 2010, Patel joined Sahajanand College, Ahmedabad and earned a Bachelor of Commerce (B. Com.) degree from where he graduated in 2013. Patel comes from an average middle-class Patidar family from Viramgam, near Ahmedabad. His father is engaged in farming.
Since early days, he associated with Patidar (Patel or Kurmi) organizations in Gujarat as well as in other states. He participated in Akhil Bharteey Kurmi Kshatriya Mahasabha at Kanpur in 2011 and delivered a fiery speech at there. He joined Sardar patel Group, a Patel-baed organization led by Lalji Bhai Patel.
One event has changed Hardik’s entire life. His younger sister got a top rank in higher secondary exam but she was not able to get a seat to a premium institution. Hardik met the head of the institution for his sister’s admission. The head of the institution told him that no seat is vacant and asked a handsome amount to get his sister’s admission. He angried upon him and he went out from there. He discussed this issue othes members of society later he decided to raise a voice for reservation for children of peasants in admissions and government jobs. He said that Patidars were not against SC/ST or OBC communities getting their due.
Hardik Patel and Patels’ agitation in Gujarat
Given the general perception that the Patels are the most prosperous community of Gujarat, their agitation evoked surprise. The common refrain was that there was a time when the Patels had bitterly opposed reservations and now they are ready to brand themselves as backwards! Are the Patels losing their hold over the society and economy of Gujarat? Are the Dalit and OBCs challenging the domination of the Savarnas in the government and the administration? Has the much-touted Gujarat model of development proved a damp squib? Is there a conflict of interest between Dwij Savarnas (Brahmin, Thakur, Bania) and non-Dwij Savarnas (Marathas, Jats, Patels, etc)?
The Patels or Patidars of Gujarat believe that they are the descendants of Shri Ram. They are mainly concentrated in eastern Gujarat and Saurashtra and number around 1.5 crore in the state. The biggest icon of the Patel community is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. As Sardar Patel hailed from a Gurjar family, this community is also seen as Patels. The Patidars are divided into Leuva Patels and Kadwa Patels. They claim they are descendants of Lav and Kush. Some say that the Leuva Patels are the equivalent of the Kurmis of north India and Kadwas are the equivalent of Koeris. The Kurmis and Kushwahas of north India also claim lineage from Lav and Kush. It was Prem Kumar Mani, the veteran commentator and author from Bihar, who mooted a joint front of Lav and Kush, that is, of Kurmis and Koeris. The state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar forged the joint front and that benefited his party in the recent elections. The Patel community was actively involved in the Indian freedom struggle. They lent their full support to the Sardar Patel-led freedom movement in Gujarat. Post-Independence, the Patels emerged as a force to reckon with in the social, political and economic sectors in Gujarat. They were mainly Congress supporters. After former chief minister Madhav Singh Solanki sidelined them by building the KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Musalmaan) coalition, the Patels started looking towards the BJP and helped the party strike roots in Gujarat.
According to Professor Sebastian Morris of IIM Ahmedabad, Patels were considered Shudras (the backward castes of today) and their place in the social hierarchy was below that of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Banias. Thanks to the British ryotwari system, Patels became owners of huge tracts of fertile land. In 1860, the railways arrived in Baroda State, enabling the Patels to fetch a good price for cotton, tobacco and oilseeds grown by them. They prospered and their social status grew. Some of them shifted base to cities and towns and tried their hand at business and industries, achieving great success. A sizeable number of them moved to foreign shores. But basically, they are an agriculturalist Shudra community.
The economic liberalization and privatization that began in 1991 helped add to the wealth of the rich capitalists while adversely impacting small and medium industries and farming. In Gujarat, Patels were the most severely hit. Journalist and analyst Aakar Patel writes: “India’s share of services is 59 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). In Gujarat, services is only 46 per cent of GDP, 13 per cent less than the national average. The share of industry is higher in Gujarat (41 per cent, compared to just under 30 per cent nationally) but this has always been the case … That was never wanting. What was missing from Gujarat was the new economy money, billions of dollars the rest of urban India is taking from the West.”
During Narendra Modi’s stewardship, Gujarat’s growth story was more hype and less reality. According to sociologist Ghanshyam Shah, “The Patel community could not keep pace with urbanization and changing times. Globalization spelt ruin for the small industrial units owned by them. And that is why they are now demanding government jobs. The industrial growth rate of Gujarat has declined considerably and that has come as a major setback for the Patels. Those who have migrated to cities from the villages are unwilling to go back. Patels are the worst victims of the Gujarat Model.”
According to Prof Sebastian Morris, “The growth rate of Gujarat declined considerably from 2002-03 onwards. While the national growth rate was 4.5-5.0 per cent, it was 3 per cent in Gujarat. From 2012, the state has been witnessing a negative growth rate, though it has never been acknowledged officially. As part of its anti-inflationary measures, the Reserve Bank of India has constricted liquidity. This has hit small industrial units. According to RBI, in 2014, the number of sick industrial units in Gujarat was 48,000, of which most were owned by Patels.”
The reservation agitation began in Gujarat’s Mehsana, the district with the biggest Patel population. Initially, they wanted the community to be brought under the OBC umbrella so that it would become eligible for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs. However, as support for the agitation grew, its leaders started demanding more and more. Hardik , the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, and Laljibhai Patel, the convener of Sardar Patel Group, were the key leaders of the movement.
After the 25 August 2014 rally, Hardik emerged as its supreme, unquestioned leader. Hardik made every possible effort to give a national character to the movement. He claimed that the total Patel population of the country was 27 crore. He said Gurjars, Kurmis, Marathas, Reddys, Kappus, Kudmis and Khandayats were also Patels, and referred to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu as members of the Patel community.
In the 25 August Kranti rally, Hardik Patel declared, “We will get reservation. Neither the BJP nor the Congress will give it. We have faith in the Supreme Court … one has to cough up Rs 10-12 lakh to get the job of a clerk or a peon. If the son of an SC, ST or OBC gets a job, we have no problem. But if a farmer’s son does not get a job despite securing 90 per cent marks, we will not tolerate it, no matter whose government it is. We had uprooted the hand. 2017 is round the corner. If the BJP does not give us reservation, the lotus won’t bloom.”
Initially, the leaders of the Patel movement had declared that either the Patels should get reservation or no one should. The RSS had backed them on this issue. The Sangh had said that reservations should be given on an economic basis.
The Savarna-dominated media gave extensive coverage to the movement and tried to drum up support for the demand that income, and not social or educational backwardness, should form the basis of reservations. However, subsequently, perhaps taking their cue from the reservations for the backward classes in north India, they declared that they wanted reservations on the basis of caste and not income. The Sangh immediately withdrew its support for the movement. On 2 October, Hardik Patel said in Delhi that the Sangh wanted to hijack the movement. Now, the entire Patidar community has turned against the BJP.
Hardik Patel and his lieutenants tried to expand their base at national level. After 25 August Kranti rally, Patidar leaders garnered support from the Hindi heartland likewise from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. PAAS leaders launched national outfit Patel Navnirman Sena (PNS) on 30 September, 2015 at Delhi . Hardik Patel was elected president of PNS and Akhilesh Katiyar, a leader from North India, appointed national general secretary. The author of this article did arrange the first meeting of Gardik Patel with Peasants groups of Noth India.
Hardik Patel went to Ratlam, Ranchi and Patna , attracting attention as young commando of the Gujarati patidars.He was trying to shift his fight for reservation to fight for peasant issues. He tried to bring the Patels, Gujjars, Kurmi and Kapus and other farmer communities under one umbrella. His efforts were short lived. He was arrested on sedition charges and jailed on 19 October last year. He is still in jail, but he still remains a leader for the Patidars in Gujarat who have organised a number of protests for his release.
A manifestation of their anger with the BJP government was visible in the Gujarat local and panchayat elections when the Patels voted against the BJP. The ruling party tasted the biggest defeat in the Panchayats since then CM Modi’s reign, although it continued to hold sway over the Municipal Corporations.
He launched his agitation in July 2015 from politically significant Mehsana district. Since last one month, he has travelled across 12 districts of Gujarat to raise his voice. Hardik is also batting for five percent quota for farm labourers, who do not owe any land. Around 4.5 lakh people belonging to Patildar or Patel community attended Hardik’s Monday rally at Navlakhi compound in Vadodara. Around 40 lakh people belonging to Kurmi, Gujjar and Patel communities from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are expected to attend Hardik’s rally on Aug 25. Patels have held 137 rallies in Gujarat so far.
Hardik had succeeded to disrupt the saffron bandwagon in Gujarat and he challenged the authority of Narend Modi, self-acclaimed of Gujarati Asmita (identity). BJP leadership made may attempts to defame Hardik Patel and his movement. He was accused for treasonous activities and dishonor to the National flag, later he sent to jail for these unproved crimes. When he was released, he exiled from the state for six months in July 2016. In January, he returned with a single-point agenda: to remove the BJP from power. BJP tried to defuse the Patidar agitation by a proposal of ten per cents extra reservation for economically backward sections thought Hardik unimpressed. He knows that this proposal can be easily challenged in the Court because the Court barred fifty per sents ceiling of reservation in jobs and admission. Hardik demands the Tamilnadu reservation formula- 69% reservation is implemented at there.
Hardik Patel and Gujarat Assembly Election
It is Hardik Patel, NOT the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who grabbed media glittering. Hardik is now not the leader of Patidar only. His rallies are catching a good number of Muslims and numerous peasant sections too. His popularity is increasing immensely and he toppled all Patel leaders of Gujarat. He is getting attention of youth from across the nation particularly from Kurmi youths. Sardar Patel, Chatrapati Shivaji and Sardar Bhagat Singh are getting spaces in his rallies’ banners along wit him.
The ruling Party is being scared by the uprising of Hardik Patel. BJP tried to break his lieutenants and succeeded to get two of them. BJP supporters tired to defame Hardik by releasing his Sex C-Ds. Hardik, in spite of these hubris is still popular in Gujarat, even his following has been increased among Patidar youths. More than twent thousands Patel youth pledged to defeat BJP in assembly election. Congress the opposition party in Gujarat is trying to Hardik Patel and top Congress leaders met many times to discuss the reservation formula for the Patidars. Hardik agreed lastly agreed with Congress formula and announced PAAS’ support for Congress in the assembly election.
BJP will have to face the four popular faces among their social groups; Alpesh Thakor from OBC group, the largest vote Bank (54 %), Jignesh Mewani from dalits (8 %), Chhotu Bhai Vasava from Adivasis (17 %) and lastly Hardi Patel from Patidars (18 % approximately). Alpesh recently joined the Congress and Chhotu Bhai, earlier part of JDU is quite popular in Adivasi belt. All these four leaders with the reincarnated Rahul Gandhi made a huge vote bank for Congress and cracked the BJP’s Hindutva Laboratory in Gujarat. He announces at every rally that The BJP must be defeated. He cracked the BJP’s backing on Jai Shri ram. He addressed in a rally that We don’t believe in their cry of “Jai Shri Ram”,we just say, “Ram Ram-a common greeting in Village India. Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani recently announced the joint maha-rally on 6th December, the Parinirvan day of Baba Saheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. The nation must remained an eye on both’s politics.
- Anoop Patel, Ph. D from JNU, currently associated with Giri Institute of Development Studies (GIDS) Lucknow