August 27, 2015

India: The Long and Dark Shadow of Mandal Politics (Dipankar Gupta)

The Long and Dark Shadow of Mandal Politics
By Dipankar Gupta

Hardik Patel was unknown till last month. He shot to prominence in July this year when he parted company with the — rather colourless — Sardar Patel Group, to launch his own Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS). By all counts Hardik might well have remained colourless too. He has an average education, an average family background, average wealth, all in all, a typical underage boy next door.

Yet, at 22 years of age he is undoubtedly the youngest mass rabble-rouser our country has seen; a Justin Bieber of India’s political pop. As the reigning heartthrob of Gujarat’s Patel community, he is often called Patidar Hriday Samrat. This in-your-face take on Prime Minister Modi’s sobriquet, “Gujarat Hriday Samrat”, is meant to both challenge and slight the current government of the state.

Hardik Patel’s career is still at the first stage rocket phase, yet look how high he has flown. In the past 60 days or so, he has addressed dozens of rallies all over Gujarat, enchanted tens of thousands and won tremendous acclaim. Yet, doubts persist about whether he is as self-propelled as it is often made out to be.

Hardik sightings are now quite the pastime for many. Amongst others, he has been spotted in the company of Praveen Togadia and Gordhan Zadaphia, neither of whom are on Anandiben Patel’s official guest list. They are still part of the BJP flock, but as votaries of hard core Hindutva, they have been put out to pasture with other designated black sheep.

There is, however, a little history behind this. The traditional rivalry between Leuvas and Kadva Patels showed up when Keshubhai, a Leuva, opposed Modi’s ascension in 2012. At this point, the Kadvas stayed on with the ruling wing of the BJP and won. Even though Keshubhai had his pockets of strength in places like Rajkot, Mehsana, and Saurashtra, his faction was routed.

All of this was seemingly forgotten when Modi triumphed as Prime Minister. Yet the wounds must have still been there. Is it just a coincidence that Hardik Patel, Keshubhai Patel, Gordhan Zadaphia and Praveen Togadia, are all Leuva Patels? Probably this association has already been made which is why Hardik Patel announced that he was a leader of all Patels, “Kadva nahin, Leuva nahin” (not Kadva or Leuva). [. . .]