An unassuming young man has emerged as the face of the Patels’ demand for reservation in Gujarat after addressing a rally in Ahmedabad attended by half-a-million people. As the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is rocked by violence following the rally, Hardik Patel has asked for calm from his supporters. Here are 10 things you need to know about the man hogging the limelight:
# A commerce graduate from Ahmedabad’s Sahajanand College, 22-year-old Hardik Patel once helped his father Bharatbhai in his business of submersible pumps.
# Belongs to a middle-class family of Chandrapur village near Viramgam town in Ahmedabad district. Said to have scored 50% marks in his BCom final exams.
# Formed the Sardar Patel Sevadal in 2011 with the avowed goal of protecting the interests of the Patidars or Patels, who once launched an agitation against reservation for Dalits, Adivasis and other backward castes (OBCs) in Gujarat.
# Floated the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in July to spearhead the movement demanding reservation for the Patidars.
# After holding the first rally of PAAS at Mehsana, he has till now organised close to 100 such meetings in Gujarat, building up the agitation. Nearly half-a-million people are said to have attended Tuesday’s rally at Ahmedabad, the biggest so far.
# Always seen in shirts and trousers, Hardik Patel makes extensive use of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to build his support base. Has more than 5,000 followers on Facebook and is now a trending topic on Twitter.
# Through his Facebook page, Patel requests his supporters to follow him on his community page as well. His Facebook profile has photos of him attending rallies and clippings of media reports.
# After Gujarat's ruling BJP accused him of being backed by the Congress, Patel released photographs of him with BJP vice president Purshottam Rupala and minister of state for home Rajnikant Patel. In another photograph, he is seen with VHP leader Pravin Togadia.
# He recently courted controversy when he was seen sporting a gun in a promotional video, which also shows him as a “superhero” emerging from flames.
# A vocal supporter of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Patel has now threatened to “teach” the BJP a lesson in the 2017 assembly polls if the party ignores the community’s demand.