Hardik Patel’s Alleged Sex Tapes Split Patidar Movement in Gujarat
And the impact will be felt by both the major parties – the BJP and the Congress.
Right at the cusp of the Gujarat Assembly elections, a sensational series of videos featuring Hardik Patel in a ‘compromising position’ with an ‘unidentified woman’ surfaced. As soon as allegations started flying, Ashwin Patel, who was one of the core leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) movement, called for a press conference within hours after the first sex tape was released.
To everyone’s surprise, he denounced Hardik and called him “characterless” and “unworthy of leading a social movement”. Meanwhile, Hardik went on the offensive and directly accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for leaking the videos – and declared his innocence claiming that the man in the video wasn’t him.
What has shocked Gujarat thoroughly is the split within the ranks of PAAS, which was an organisation that had the courage to take on the might of the BJP, who have ruled the state for 22 years.
It all started in July 2015, when the Patidar movement was gathering steam across Gujarat demanding OBC reservation for Patels.
PASS or PAAS?
Back in 2015, the movement was called Patidar Anamat Sangharsh Samiti – or PASS. According to Nixan Patel, who is a close aide of Ashwin, “It was Laljibhai Patel of the Sardar Patel Group (SPG) who was at the helm of the movement. Ashwin was part of the core committee whereas Hardik handled social media.”
Hardik would send messages related to our activities in the community spread across the state but signed off those messages with his name. That is how he became famous.Nixan Patel
He further added, “PASS held around 200 rallies around the state and for each rally we had obtained permission from the local authorities. However, things went south when a rally was held at Visnagar, which was headed by Hardik, on 23 July 2015. The mob went violent and attacked local BJP MLA Rishikesh Patel’s office and burnt an office bearer’s car.”
Hardik hit the limelight in a big way on 25 August 2015, when the Patidar Maha Rally was called in Ahmedabad. It saw lakhs of community members gather from across the state.
By then, through social media channels PASS had transformed into PAAS – or Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti – led by Hardik.
Jolan Patel, who works closely with PASS supporters, and is also working for the IT Cell of the BJP in the state, said, “Hardik was supposed to take the stage at GMDC grounds Ahmedabad with Laljibhai Patel of the SPG. However, he stole the show and addressed the crowd in attendance all by himself.”
It was he who provoked the crowd which led to police charging at Patidars and resulted in the death of 14 community members.Jolen Patel, associated with PASS
The attack on Patidars continued for the next two days with riots breaking out across Gujarat and the police, especially in Ahmedabad, targeting Patidar-dominated areas. They thrashed men and women with batons. Soon sedition charges were levied on Hardik – and he was behind bars along with other members of PAAS.
The Taluka Elections
By the end of 2015, the local body elections were held across Gujarat, which saw a resurgence of the Congress. The BJP managed to barely hold on to power. The anti-incumbency effect was in full show as Jolen alleges that Hardik had tied up with the Congress, helping the party gain inroads into the local body polls.
“Many PAAS members under Hardik got Congress tickets and managed to capitalise on the anti-incumbency effect. The BJP after the Maha Rally fell out of favour with the Patidar community, and it was reflected in the assembly polls.”
What About Anamat?
With the videos surfacing just around the elections, the issue of reservation has taken a new turn. The former PASS is now coming to the fore against PAAS and they have a new demand – reservation for farmers under OBC. They are convinced that there is no other way to secure reservation for the Patidar without taking up the farmers’ quota.
Sandeep Patel, who too is a close aide of Ashwin, told The Quint, “We are seeking reservation for the farmers in Gujarat who are truly backward. The OBC ruling doesn’t claim that reservation should be given based on caste."
If we can ask for reservation for the farmers of Gujarat under OBC, then around 80 percent Patidars will benefit as most of them are poor farmers who do not get their due.Sandeep Patel, PASS member
He further added, “This will have far-reaching ramifications across the country as communities such as Jats and Gujjars both can seek farmers reservation to ensure that their community members reap the benefit of quota. We have already made representations before Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and the state OBC Commission. Hardik never submitted any documents to the OBC commission seeking quota for the Patidar of the state.”
Dinesh Bhambania, who is the member of the core PAAS Group, told The Quint, “We too had taken an application to the OBC commission in Gandhinagar last year in October. However, we were arrested right outside the office and our application was never accepted. The rival faction led by Ashwin Patel can seek reservation for anyone. It doesn’t matter to us, our fight for reservation will continue all the way. They have already sided with the BJP and are seeking tickets in the upcoming elections. Such allegations do not surprise me at all.”
The caste politics in Gujarat is at an interesting juncture with both the BJP and the Congress playing their cards close to their chest. The ramifications of PAAS splitting could backfire for the BJP, while the Congress is apprehensive about Hardik’s leadership in spite of publicly endorsing him.
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