Hardik’s stock rises as the indefinite fast goes on even as the BJP tries to cut him off
Over a fortnight into his indefinite hunger strike, Hardik Patel has had a virtual retinue of political leaders of every hue calling on him. From estranged BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha, former JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, NCP’s Praful Patel to A. Raja of the DMK and the TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi, they have all been making a beeline to the farmhouse outside Ahmedabad where Hardik is staging his protest. Needless to say, it’s given the young Gujarati patidar leader’s political stature a significant boost.
Analysts say it is almost like when he first burst onto the scene in April 2015, braving a brutal police lathi charge to demand quotas for his community. The indignant Patel community reacted with violence, which invited a further police crackdown. It then provided Hardik with a political plank that eventually bruised the BJP in the 2017 assembly polls.
But this time, the Gujarat government has a nuanced strategy to restrict Hardik’s influence from growing. BJP state president Jitu Vaghani has consistently dismissed the patidar’s fast as a “Congress
sponsored exercise”. And the state administration, citing the 2015 violence, has invoked Section 144 to disallow the assembly of more than four people at the fast venue.
The state government’s refusal to engage with Hardik on the two key issues—quotas for the Patels and the Rs 82,000 crore farm loan waiver—has in some ways robbed Hardik of his advantage. His avid supporters have nonetheless flexed their muscles with protest marches in Mehsana and Amreli districts, both patidar strongholds.
The ruling BJP is also pointing to Hardik’s flip-flop regarding his ‘fast unto death’. It is being pointed out that he has twice accepted a drink of water from visiting politicians. Also, when he was forcibly removed to a government hospital for a medical examination on September 7, Hardik’s supporters, claiming they feared for his life, insisted he be examined at a private hospital of their choice.
For the moment, though, the Gujarat government is unwilling to risk anything. Aware that Hardik is looking at a major role in next year’s Lok Sabha polls in tandem with the Congress, CM Vijay Rupani knows that the patidar leader won’t pass up the slightest opportunity. His big challenge now is to ensure that Hardik’s fast ends without fuelling more fire. Sources say the latter too is looking for a way to end his fast honourably.
CM RUPANI’S BIG CHALLENGE IS TO ENSURE THAT HARDIK’S FAST ENDS WITHOUT INCIDENT
REAPING THE GAINSHardik Patel on hunger strike outside Ahmedabad