Patels, considered a business community, comprise 18 per cent of Gujarat’s population. The protests to include them in OBC for reservation have heated up. But how did amidst this Hardik Patel rise to fame in such short span of time?
Since July 15, it has been 1.5 months and Hardik Patel has splashed a hundred times on national headlines. The Patidar agitation acquired momentum because of the fury and it’s occurrence in PM Narendra Modi’s model of good governance, Gujarat. In such short time no movement can acquire such a sweep simply on the basis of anger and numerical strength. It must have had access to skills to craft popular protests which are beyond the capacity of 22-year-old Hardik.
A look at Hardik’s past shows his alignments towards politics. After a stint in the students’ union, Hardik joined the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), a Patidar youth body in 2011. He became president of its Viramgam unit. In 2015, he was ousted from the SPG after a conflict with its leader, Lalji Patel. After that, Hardik formed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti.
There is also high possibility of Hardik’s connections with Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. It was Hardik who played a driver and escorted Arvind Kejriwal during his Gujarat tour. Also at his rally he spoke in Hindi instead of Gujarati to reach to an audience beyond the state via TV. This has been reinforced as he descended on Delhi for confabulating with the leaders of Jatts, who have been demanding to be included in the central OBC list.
Only the backward commissions can be declared as OBCs after a socio-economic survey. The cap of 50 per cent in reservations is another obstacle. The state can pass a law to remove the limit by placing it in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. However, a 2007 Supreme Court judgment allows challenging such laws placed in this after1973. Even if Hardik was to succeed, it would take years. Here the timing of this protest comes into play. It gives an impression of a political gimmick for popularity before Gujarat elections like it happened in Delhi.
50% is the limit for reserving seats. Gujarat already has 49.5% reservation. Addition of Patels would lead to dilution to the share of seats to other communities. Would the beneficiaries of reservation accept any dilution of this policy? Above all do Patidars really justify a reservation? Or it’s just another Delhi story in Gujarat prior to elections due in two years?