Ahmedabad: Hardik Patel’s recent announcement of an indefinite hunger strike next month seems to be yet another attempt to revive the quota agitation movement in Gujarat after a post-election lull.
Patel, who heads the pro-reservation Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), said he will launch an indefinite fast beginning 25 August, the third anniversary of his address to a huge gathering in Ahmedabad, an event marred by violence.
While the 2015 event put Patel in the spotlight, this one seems aimed at remaining relevant ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Announcing his plans, Patel said that this was his “last fight".
“The time has come for the fight to take it to its last stage. It’s time to be either on this side or that. Besides quota reservation, my fight is also for farmers and unemployed," he had said in a video posted on a social networking site.
Patel turned 25 on 20 July, meeting the minimum age criteria to fight a Lok Sabha or state assembly election.
Although there has been a buzz in political circles that Patel might contest the Lok Sabha elections as an independent or on a Congress ticket, the Patidar leader is yet to make his stand clear. He did not respond to calls made on his mobile phone.
From a youth who was once seen brandishing weapons in pictures, he has turned into a crowd-puller, giving speeches on a wide range of topics from farm distress to unemployment.
As he tries to position himself as a farmers’ and youth leader, many of the core team members have left PAAS, accusing Patel of moving away from their main objective of quota reservation for Patidars in Gujarat.
In June this year, some PAAS members who had left Patel took out a rally to commemorate the youth who were killed in police firing after Hardik Patel’s rally in August 2015.
“Hardik knows that his game is over. The core members of PAAS who have been instrumental in shaping the movement have left him. His threat for indefinite fast is his last ditched attempt to remain in the limelight. But the people of Gujarat can see through his game plan and they will not be cheated this time," said a senior BJP leader of Gujarat who did not wish to be named.
Patel, who won the sobriquet “quota warrior" for his espousal of the Patel community’s cause, is fighting the BJP government in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, he has also begun campaigning in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.
Patel on 26 May addressed a public meeting in Surendranagar district—the first major event by the PAAS leader since assembly elections last December. Patel had invited Patidar MLAs from both Congress and BJP to attend the event. However about 14 out of 17 Congress MLAs turned up and none from the BJP showed up.