The Caged Quota Crusader
On the lines of writer George R R Martin’s famous quote “Oft-times a very small man can cast a very large shadow…”a hitherto unknown 22 year old son of a farmer sprang from nowhere to take reins of the leadership of a pro-quota movement for a dominant community in Gujarat.
Hardik Patel, a commerce graduate from an Ahmedabad college is just an average youth with no intellectual pretensions .Fond of cricket ,he like most of his ilk ,was happy in his small town pursuits when the frustrations of the jobless young and the plummeting economics of their agrarian elders infected him. As their numbers swelled ,the restlessness of the young welded with the plight of the old who had paid through their nose for the education of their wards only to find them idling away their time aimlessly or struggle in ill paid jobs .For well over a decade the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat had reeled out huge figures of employment through year round extravaganzas with exotic names that unfolded a vision of brocaded development and plentiful employment.
The 2011 Gujarat Global Investor summit saw Rs 21 lakh crore worth of MOUs signed but a Gujarat government study itself showed only 1% actualization years later .Such grandstanding may have got Modi the country’s leadership but it has fueled frustration and turmoil in Gujarat .No sooner did Modi move on to greener pastures that the glitter of the ‘Gujarat model’ began to wear off ,the restlessness rose in equal proportion until it exploded into a rising crescendo of protests in the middle of 2015.
It is often said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable .It is common knowledge in Gujarat that it was the internal politics of the BJP that led to the Patels stir for reservation in education and jobs at par with the Other Backward Class(OBC).
Equally well known is the rivalry between two of Modi’s closest aides ,BJP president Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. Sources close to Anandiben do not hesitate to point in his direction for the dirt being hurled at her.The fact that Anandiben was forced to say that she would not be a chief ministerial aspirant in future is being attributed to a part of this tirade .Shah knows that he is the fall guy if things go badly for the BJP in the UP polls next year .Do not be surprised if he lands up in Gujarat subject to such showings.
Even the choice of the new DGP ,P.P.Pandey in Gujarat is attributed to Delhi and rightly so. Chief Minister Anandiben would have wanted Geetha Johri but could not have her way.The directions flowed from Delhi to K.Kailashnathan who was additional chief secretary under the Modi regime and was re-employed after his retirement. He continued in the post even after Anandiben Patel took over and is seen as Modi’s man in Gujarat.
As today in the Centre, so then in Gujarat, Modi was the party and the government .After he left Anandiben took over. Impatient leaders within sought to destabilize her but knew unless there was a strong enough issue this would not be easy .The stir came in handy but those who wanted a controlled ‘explosion’ were soon thrown off as the stir caught the imagination of the youth and the community and propelled by police excesses developed a momentum of its own.
Hardik Patel, it’s leader this week completed 200 days in jail under charges of sedition .The crowning irony is that the might of an administration headed by a Patel with a party headed by a Patel till recently, with seven of the 24 ministers and 42 of the total 182 legislators from the community, was so fearful of the power of a 22 year old novice that he had to be kept behind bars by hook or by crook .
The result is that Hardik like JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar -for altogether different reasons- is an emerging leader in Gujarat who is now a household name in the country. But then Hardik is not the only one subjected to such ignominy .Chief minister Narendra Modi’s government had in October 2008 booked Ahmedabad Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashwin Patel on charges of sedition for allegedly sending ‘defamatory’ text messages against the chief minister. He was denied bail and kept in jail for an extended period of time before the Sangh Parivar top brass intervened for his release!
Obsessed with breaking down the Patel stir ,the ruling BJP has only two options ,the carrot and the stick and is employing both .A crackdown on the youth with sedition and an assortment of criminal charges applied on a whole lot of them constitutes one end of the spectrum with their religious ,cultural and philanthropic institution leaders being both cajoled and coerced to intervene .At the other end is the move to make available 10 per cent reservation in the Economically Backward Class(EBC) category
.An ordinance has been promulgated that would most effectively sow confusion in the ranks of the beneficiary and throw the ball in judicial terrain thus earning the ruling party a respite .Whatever may be the fate of the stir but the use of sedition to subdue the less than dozen Patel youth has turned them into a symbol of protest .
(This report was carried in the Spotlight section of the Deccan Herald newspaper of Bangaluru,edition dated May1,2016)(http://www.deccanherald.com/content/543667/from-obscurity-limelight-via-quota.html