A split in the coalition demanding reservation for the Patel community may dent Hardik Patel’s agitation just as he plans to go national.
The Sardar Patel Group has opted out of the umbrella group, admitting to clear differences in approach with Hardik’s group. “We are not with an individual but with the cause,” said their leader Lalji Patel.
Lalji Patel is said to believe in going slow to ensure the government accedes to the community’s demands while the 22-year-old Hardik is all about an aggressive approach.
With the split, the stir seems to be losing steam and sources said Hardik may find it difficult to pull big crowds.
Two men are fighting for the same cause: Reservations for Patels in government jobs and educational institutions across Gujarat by including the dominant community in the other backward class category.
But while 22-year-old Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), has taken the aggressive road — often criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and threatening to escalate the movement — his mentor Lalji Patel believes in a slow-but-steady approach to force the government to accede to their demand.
The two men had joined hands to bring Ahmedabad to a grinding halt on August 25 with a mammoth rally that saw over 500,000 people turning up to demand reservations for the community that comprises around 15% of the state’s population.
But after Lalji’s Sardar Patel Group (SPG), which started the movement in 2012, decided to part ways with the PAAS, Hardik is facing difficulties in sustaining the demonstrations as more than one million SPG members are likely to stay away.
In the past few days, Hardik has not only been unable to meet Patel MLAs but was also denied a venue to discuss future strategy with his team members. The isolation is such that top industrialists, who were once backing Hardik, have started to ignore him.
Chirag Patel, an aide of the 22-year-old, alleged the government was trying to kill the agitation and consequently, they were finding it difficult to get permission and venues for their meetings.
The SPG, on the other hand, refuses to talk explicitly about the split with Hardik, but its members maintain there is a clear difference of approach between the two. “We are not with an individual but with the cause,” Lalji told HT.
As Hardik’s movement sputters, the veteran leader is gaining strength and has managed to get all Whatsapp group passwords earlier with the PAAS and will be more active on the social media platform.
Sources said the PAAS is slowly losing steam and finding it tough to mobilise crowds for the much-publicised Reverse-Dandi March. As a result, Hardik has formed the Patel Navnirman Sena (PNS) to take the movement nationwide and is trying to expand to other Gujarat cities such as Rajkot.
“If he has been denied permission once, why would he get permission now? He is aware of it and has now shifted focus to PNS,’ said a source. The SPG doesn’t agree with Hardik’s methods and maintains the fight for reservation is a long one and cannot be resolved by rallies and protests.
“Our fight for reservation will continue. But what requires our immediate attention is the need to highlight police atrocities and ensure adequate compensation for those who died,” said Varun Patel, chief spokesperson of the SPG.