Hardik Patel’s Waning Impact on the Patidar Agitation in Gujarat
Patidar leader Hardik Patel at a rally in Surat.
Patidar leader Hardik Patel at a rally in Surat.(Photo Courtesy: @HardikPatel.Official/Facebook)

Hardik Patel’s Waning Impact on the Patidar Agitation in Gujarat

Six months have passed since the Gujarat Assembly elections concluded, and Hardik Patel is left salvaging a waning Patidar reservation movement that had peaked in August 2015. His cry for reservation led to the BJP changing chief ministers before the 2017 polls to the Legislative Assembly, and gave the Congress a strong edge over the saffron party during campaigning.

Today, however, the Patidar reservation movement seems to have relegated itself to the pages of history with no real action coming from its leaders, especially Hardik Patel.

Hardik Alienating Close Aides

As for Hardik, who was once hailed as a messiah for the Patidars, even those who were once his supporters have begun deserting him. Dinesh Bhambania, 38, who had backed Hardik even when he had faced a sex CD scandal, has now filed a defamation suit against the Patidar leader. Bhambania has accused Hardik of wrongly accusing him of being a defector.

The relations did strain between me and him (Hardik) during the polls and I have tried to maintain cordial relations with him, but this takes the cake. He sends a video and a message to the media claiming that we have taken money.
Dinesh Bhambania, Convener, PAAS, to The Quint

It Started With a Viral Video

Hardik’s allegations became news after a video went viral, which showed one Mansukh Patel engrossed in a discussion with several leader from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS). Mansukh Patel had earlier played the role of mediator between the PAAS and the State government when the reservation movement had peaked after 25 August, 2015, rally in Ahmedabad.

In the video, Mansukh was seen talking about how some person had made efforts to offer ‘something’ to PAAS leaders.

Although the video doesn’t explicitly name any political party or any PAAS leader by their names, on 3 June, Hardik went on to accuse the BJP government of buying out Patidar leaders and muddling up the reservation agitation.

Also Read: A Day in the Life of Hardik Patel, the Angry Millennial Politician

Hardik’s Pointed Accusations

After the video went viral, Hardik alleged Bambania, along with PAAS members Varun Patel, Reshma Kaneria, Ketan Patel, and Dilip Sabva, had taken money to switch sides. He also alleged that Reshma and Varun, who are now part of the BJP, were bribed Rs 4 crore and Rs 6 crore each.

However, Bhambania who has not yet sided with any political party, was left fuming. “When I asked him to clarify on the matter, he immediately changed the message and said that he received the information from someone else. I had no option but to file a defamation case,” he said.

Old Rift with Dinesh Bhambania During Polls

Sources told The Quint that cracks appeared between Hardik and Dinesh during the election campaign. The original demands made by the PAAS before extending support to the Congress were never incorporated in the Congress manifesto, and it set of a chain of events that drove both the PAAS leaders apart.

The rift further widened when the Congress released its first list of candidates and did not nominate Patidar names in key Patidar-dominated constituencies.

But as the elections kept drawing closer, Hardik nonchalantly pushed the reservation movement aside, because the Congress only talks to Hardik Patel and not with any other PAAS leader.
Dinesh Bhambania, convener, PAAS

“I took up the fight for reservation for our Patel brothers and sisters; not to be swayed by political ambitio,” he added.

Also Read: PAAS Leader Dinesh Alleges ‘Fixing’ between Hardik and Congress

‘Hardik Is a Congress Agent’

Meanwhile, other Patidar leaders who Hardik had accused of corruption have given him a five-day deadline to apologise for his remarks. The Quint spoke to Reshma Patel, who countered Hardik’s allegations and asked, “How did he manage to spend around Rs 20 crore on your sister’s wedding?”

Also Read: Hardik Patel’s Alleged Sex Tapes Split Patidar Movement in Gujarat

Everyone knows what his humble beginnings were; how did he manage to pull of such a lavish wedding? Because he always had the Congress backing him; he was an agent for the Congress. If he doesn’t remain within maryada, then I will have no other option but to file a defamation case against him.
Reshma Patel, BJP
Hardik’s sister got married in March this year. When such allegations were raised back then, he had said, “Why doesn’t the machinery use the Income Tax department against me?”

Ketan Patel said, “A defamation case in no way supersedes the impact of a sedition case. That is why he talks like a careless child. Everyone knows who took money from whom. He who came from a relatively humble beginnings, who didn’t have money to pay his bike’s EMI, today moves around in a cavalcade of vehicles. How is this possible without the support of the Congress?”

Fate of Patidar Reservation Movement Looks Foggy

On 26 May this year, Hardik called for a Patidar Maha Panchayat at Moti Malvan in Surendranagar district of Gujarat. Around 4,000 people attended the panchayat, where Hardik discussed his plans to revive the reservation agitation.

The 25 August, 2015, the Patidar Maha Rally saw an excess of 25 lakh Patels flock towards the GMDC grounds in Ahmedabad.
The 25 August, 2015, the Patidar Maha Rally saw an excess of 25 lakh Patels flock towards the GMDC grounds in Ahmedabad.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/@Gujarat Global)
In 2015, eighteen lakh Patels attended the Patidar Maha rally that we organised in Surat. Similarly, in Ahmedabad 25 lakh Patel’s joined us. Compare that to a mere 4,000 Patels who attended Hardik’s Mahapanchayat. It is obvious that the Patidars are not enamoured by Hardik anymore. Moreover, they called 12 Congress MLAs to the Mahapanchayat. Was this a Congress Mahapanchayat?
Ketan Patel, BJP leader, to The Quint

Bhambania, on the other hand, claimed that he was on his was to attend the Mahapanchayat but returned midway. “Why did he call BJP MLAs to the event? We have always stood against the BJP’s policies towards Patidars. Moreover, the Patidar movement before the big rally on 25 August, 2015, was pulling crowds in lakhs. We had no face; instead, we were a team of 11 to 12 key persons who ran the agitation. The moment Hardik became the face of the agitation, the numbers dropped,” he said.

Hardik may have big plans for the reservation movement in Gujarat, but support from all quarters is slowly fading. This was clearly visible in Surat during the elections where Hardik campaigned passionately against the BJP and still the votes swung in the the favour of the saffron party.

The Quint tried to reach out to Hardik, but he was not available as he was campaigning for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh for the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.

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