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The Times of India, 25 Aug, 2015
Till June 2015, nobody had heard of Hardik Patel, the man who has galvanized Patidar masses in a Gujarat-wide movement to demand reservations in the OBC quota. Now he is well known across Gujarat.
Convener of PAAS
He helped his father run a small submersible-pumps business in rural Ahmedabad, Hardik Patel is the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS). Hardik, who graduated with less than 50% marks from Ahmedabad's Sahajanand College, comes from an average middle-class Patidar family from Viramgam, near Ahmedabad. His father is engaged in farming.
The man who galvanized Patidar masses
He is well known as the man who has galvanized Patidar masses in a Gujarat-wide movement to demand reservations in the OBC quota. Hardik feels that Patidars are losing in the development race because of the present reservation regime. He said, "A Patidar student with 90% marks does not get admission in an MBBS course, while SC/ST or OBC students get it with 45% marks." He said that Patidars were not against SC/ST or OBC communities getting their due. Hardik's rise has baffled everyone, especially the political establishment.
Hardik was a member of the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), a leading Patidar youth body, and was president of its Viramgam unit. But he was ousted from the post because the leader of the SPG, Lalji Patel, was not amenable to the idea of Hardik promoting his PAAS. Formed only in July, PAAS has shaken social and political stability of Gujarat by becoming the uniting force for Patels, so far the bedrock of support to the BJP.
Source of strength
Following his parting with the SPG, Hardik concentrated on building up PAAS even as SPG leaders lodged an FIR against him, alleging that he had failed to return Rs 2 lakh he owed to the group. Hardik claims that the FIR had been filed at the behest of the state govt. Old photographs of him with VHP strongman Pravin Togadia are also fuelling the rumour mill about the mysterious source of his strength.
Turf war swings Hardik's way
The turf war between Patel factions swung Hardik's way on August 17 after the success of a rousing rally orchestrated by him in Surat which drew an estimated half a million Patels on to the streets of Diamond City. The SPG announced publicly that it shared a common purpose with PAAS.
No stranger to controversy
Recently, a controversy broke out with the emergence of a video clip showing a montage of fiery images — including those with Hardik holding guns. In that video, shared widely on social media, a provocative commentary runs in the background. Hardik, though, says that the audio comprises just lyrics of popular Bollywood song.