Hardik Patel, 22, may have become the face of the Patidar agitation demanding reservation for the affluent Patel community, but his movement wouldn’t have got the momentum without a group of men constantly watching his back.
The agitation that has taken the country by storm is spearheaded by a core team of four members — Chirag Patel, a former RSS and BJP member who is still an elected member of a Taluka panchayat (Viramgam) in Ahmedabad district; Ketan Patel, a former farmer who runs an event management company; Mansukh Patel, a ceramic trader; and Dinesh Patel, a cotton trader.
While some of the members have known each other for the past 2-3 years, others came together during the agitation. The team meets every day at 7 am to discuss future strategies. It also addresses organisational issues of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), manages the social media team, connects with people and takes care of the day-to-day affairs.
It now plans to form new teams at the district and block level. In fact, the entire community feels a “sense of deprivation” with communities belonging to the OBCs enjoying 27% quota in government jobs and educational institutes in several decades.
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In Gujarat, almost 49% seats in government jobs and educational institutes are reserved for OBCs (27%), in which 146 castes or communities including over a dozen communities from the minority community are included; tribals (15%) and scheduled castes or Dalits (7%).
HT met the team on Saturday at a hotel lobby in Ahmedabad while Hardik was busy giving news bytes to the media. As they waited for him to finish, 38-yearold Chirag, who was expelled from the BJP in 2012, was busy answering calls from people who wanted to know whether they had got permission for the reverse Dandi march scheduled for September 6. A visibly busy Chirag said that the agitation will intensify in the coming days.
“I was an RSS worker and joined BJP in 2001. I worked hard but soon became disillusioned. BJP has become a party for the rich. This agitation has got a tremendous response not only because of Hardik but because people who have been neglected for years found a voice in him. If you can’t end reservation why not give it to all?
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Government is trying its best to end this agitation. Our workers are being threatened; fake cases are being filed against them. But we will not stop,” Chirag said.
Chirag introduced Hardik to Ketan, a 43-year-old businessman who runs his own event management company. Ketan left farming as he was unable to recover costs, and met Hardik for the first time during the first rally and became involved in the agitation.
Another key member is 35-year-old Dinesh, a cotton trader. Unlike the others he met the other core group members at the agitation. Mansukh, 58, a ceramic trader is also part of the core group. “He is an experienced man and we consult him whenever we are in doubt,” Chirag said.
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