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The Hindu
The Hindu
Priyali Prakash

Explained | From Patidar agitation to BJP: A look at Hardik Patel’s political journey

The story so far: Former Gujarat Congress leader Hardik Patel formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday, June 2.

The face of the 2015 Patidar reservation agitation, Mr. Patel resigned from Congress on May 18, alleging neglect towards him and other youth leaders. He is likely to contest the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections on a BJP ticket. 

Rise to fame: The Patidar agitation

Before Mr. Patel rose to fame with the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in 2015, he was a member of the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), a Patidar-centred organisation run by Lalji Patel. At the time, SPG was the biggest Patel community social group in Gujarat. In July 2015, the then 22-year-old Mr. Patel floated PAAS with the aim of bringing the Patidar community within the ambit of the OBC reservation quota.

Mr. Patel was a relatively less-known figure before PAAS emerged as a leader in the Patidar agitation. The collective organised its first rally on July 6, 2015, in Visnagar, a small town in Gujarat. From there, the agitation transformed into a mass movement and gained the support of thousands of community members.

Multiple protests were organised in Surat, Vadodara, Mehsana and in Ahmedabad where thousands took to the streets to demand reservations in educational institutions and jobs. Mr. Patel and his group consisted mostly of youngsters aggrieved by the high cost of education and lack of employment opportunities. PAAS used social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter extensively to garner support for their agitation.

On August 25, 2015, Mr. Patel spearheaded a massive agitation at the GMDC ground in Ahmedabad. In his speech, he said that “we will go to Jantar Mantar also to raise our demand if the state government does not offer a solution”, which was seen as an early indication of his ambitions to take the agitation to a national level. Around five lakh Patidar community members were estimated to have attended the rally.

The rally did spark national interest in the agitation but mostly due to the violence that ensued. Mr. Patel, who had started an indefinite fast after the rally, was briefly detained and the police cracked down on other organisers, claiming they did not take necessary permission before the event. By the time he was detained, incidences of clashes and stone-pelting had already been reported all around the city.

Mr. Patel’s arrest worsened the violence as Patidars clashed with the police. Six buses were also torched. A curfew was imposed and the Army was called in after widespread violence in Ahmedabad.  

Police in Ahmedabad and Surat slapped sedition cases on Mr. Patel and his close aides, and they were arrested and jailed for nine months. After receiving bail, Mr. Patel was externed from Gujarat for six months as the High Court asked him to stay in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Mr. Patel revived the agitation as soon as he returned to Gujarat. 

Joining the Congress

Mr. Patel supported the Congress party in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, where they were defeated by the BJP. “Our primary goal is to get a quota for the community and to achieve that, we have to first defeat the BJP in the State because it’s the BJP which has denied us benefits under the quota,” the Patidar leader said in an interview with The Hindu in February 2017.

In March 2019, Mr. Patel officially joined the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha election. He was promoted to the post of the working president of Gujarat Congress in July 2020. 

In April 2022, Mr. Patel alleged that he was being “harassed and sidelined” by party leaders ahead of the State Assembly elections. “All they do is conspire to force me to quit the party,” he said, without mentioning specific names. 

Move towards the BJP

In early May, Mr. Patel dropped the mention of Congress from his Twitter bio, fuelling speculations that he might leave the party. He resigned on May 18, slamming the leadership for a “lack of seriousness”.

A day after his resignation, the Patidar leader said that he was undecided as to which party he would be joining next.

He formally joined the BJP on June 2 and was inducted into the party by State party chief C.R. Patil, in the presence of former Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel.

“I am about to start a new chapter with feelings of national interest, regional interest and social interest. I will work as a small soldier in the massive efforts in national service under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he tweeted before the induction ceremony.

He later tweeted photos of the ceremony as well, writing that he would work shoulder to shoulder with the BJP as a “true soldier” to make India a world leader. “My Gujarat is great, will be the greatest,” he tweeted in Hindi.

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