Why Hardik Patel’s protest has been at the cost of Gujarat’s image

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The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) a body of Patels led by a seeming nobody from Viramgam, 23-year old Hardik Patel, had challenged the Anandiben Patel government, threatening its most formidable votebank — the Patels and the youth, in one go.

Over the last 13 years, after the 2002 communal riots, Gujarat’s biggest USP had been the “peace and prosperity”. That is how Gujarat sold itself as the best investment destination in the seven editions of Vibrant Gujarat Global investor summits.

Former chief minister, now prime minister, Narendra Modi and his successor Anandiben Patel would tell in their speeches about how a school-going child today does not know the meaning of the word “curfew”. That myth busted Tuesday when curfew was first clamped on Mehsana district- home to Modi and Anandiben.

The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), a body of Patels led by 23-year-old Hardik Patel from Viramgam, has challenged the Anandiben Patel government, threatening its most formidable vote banks — the Patels and the youth — in one go.

Anandiben’s appeal aired at midnight Tuesday was specific to say that “something happened at 8 pm that provoked the lathi charge”. Rajnikant in his appeal before hers, said “something happened suddenly in the evening on GMDC ground”. Even Modi’s message on Wednesday mentioned how the atmosphere changed “yesterday evening”.

The leaders were careful not to blame Hardik Patel’s speech as having been provocative, although he made several references about how the Patidars knew how to “grab” their right if they did not get it, and about how now they were on the course charted by Gandhi and Sardar but if the need arose they could become Chandrashekhar Azad.

The state law and order and intelligence bodies also seemed to have ignored the advisory on the jagopatidar website asking “elders and infirm to avoid coming for the gathering”. They realised it would not be good for them.

The Surat Patidar rally on August 17 should also have been a wakeup call, if not the Visnagar one in Mehsana before that. The Visnagar one turned violent and 152 Patidars were booked for violating prohibitory orders.

On August 17, nearly 4.5 lakh Patidars joined the rally as Surat, including its diamond and textile units, the biggest ones of which are run by Patels, shut down in support. And this is when PAAS leaders claimed “this was only the trailer, the movie was yet to come”.

On August 25, as the massive Patidar show of strength unfolded, the veneer of peace also cracked up. Gujarat seemed to have gone back by 13 years. On Wednesday life came to a total standstill in response to a bandh call by PAAS leader Hardik Patel. All public transport systems were on hold fearing vandalising mobs, the railway authorities cancelled even the Delhi bound trains, as mobs went on rampage.
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