‘I am not against dynastic politics. I see Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister-material.’
Patidar leader Hardik Patel spoke to The Sunday Guardian. Excerpts:
Q: Saurashtra is your home ground and despite that you were not able to do well in the Gujarat elections.
A: Why do you feel that we did not perform well in Saurashtra? In the 2012 polls, 22% of the Patel votes were with the Congress, which increased to 48% in the 2017 elections. Change and revolution take time to show results and in the two-and-a-half years of our struggle, we have managed to bring this change. For decades, the Patidar samaj was doing slavery of the BJP. This has changed now. In 2012, only eight Patel MLAs were in the Congress; now, the number is 22. This is the difference that I want to bring.
Q: Still, you were not able to stop the BJP from coming to power.
A: It is a good thing. In a democracy, a powerful opposition is as important as the party which is in power. In the past elections, the BJP would celebrate its victory in a big way, but in the recent election, they could not do so as they won narrowly. They know that the people are unhappy and even now, most of the Gujaratis are wondering how the BJP won.
Q: You had alleged that EVMs were hacked in the Gujarat polls and that you will approach the court over the issue. Is there any development on this?
A: The candidates who lost the elections have already filed a PIL. It takes time to achieve justice as it goes through “tareek pe tareek”. We are keeping a watch on it.
Q: You had also alleged that you were offered Rs 1,200 crore by someone in Gujarat to take back the stir that you were spearheading in 2016. Do you stand by that allegation?
A: K. Kailashnathan (retired IAS) was the man who offered me that bribe; you can write down his name. I am not scared by anyone.
Q: What is your problem with Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
A: When a kid cries at home, his father placates him by saying that if you stop crying, I will give you a chocolate. But the child never gets the chocolate, because the father never intended to give him one. Similarly, the PM has been fooling the people of the country. He had promised that the youths will get 2 crore jobs, farmers will get increased price for their products—all this has proved to be a lie. He should not lie. In Gujarat, he used to call Muslims as “Mian-Musharraf”, and now when he has become the PM, he calls them “brothers”. I have no problem with this; this is a good thing, but why this hypocrisy?
My father went to jail for Ram Mandir during the agitation. The BJP has more than 272 MPs today, why are they not making the Ram Mandir? So many people have been killed in the name of Ram. In Gujarat, more than 200 youths are in prison for taking part in the Ram Mandir agitation. Why is Modi not doing anything for them if he is serious about Ram Mandir? Why does he talk about “Make in India”? Why doesn’t he push for “Made in India”? This will generate more employment. Corruption is not getting controlled as the Nirav Modi incident showed. Why shouldn’t we be against the PM?
Q: How does that justify your inclination towards Congress?
A: I have not joined them.
Q: Will you?
A: We will see, time will tell. I want to bring solutions…
Q: Do you think the solution that you are referring to can be brought about by working with the Congress?
A: Solution is my focus. I want to end farmers’ suicides, unemployment among the youths and only if I am able to end this, then I can call myself a leader inthe true sense. Else, I am just like other politicians.
Q: What is your opinion about Congress president Rahul Gandhi?
A: He is becoming more dynamic every day. His thinking is developing and people like listening to him. So many people from his family have worked for the country and I think working for the country is in his genes.
Q: Are you not against dynastic politics?
A: No, I am not, and I do see Rahul Gandhi as a PM material.
Q: Elections are scheduled in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where there is a sizeable population of Patidars. Will you go there to campaign?
A: I will not campaign against the BJP in not just MP and Chhattisgarh, but across the country.
I just don’t represent the Patels. In Gujarat, I speak for them because that is my responsibility. But the problems are not just limited to Gujarat. When I talk about reservations, it doesn’t mean reservations for Patels only. I am concerned about farmers and youths of the whole country. I am not just a leader of the Patels; people across different castes have expectations from me. I want to become a leader of every individual.
Q: Why are you indulging in negative politics? You say you will campaign against the BJP. But is that the solution to the woes of farmers and youths? Is removing BJP from power the answer?
A: I am working on a solution, it takes time. I am 24 years of age, an age in which people roam around with their girlfriends. I am not indulging in this, but thinking about the country. Once I find the solution, I will join a party and defeat the BJP.
Q: So you will not form a new party?
A: There are 1,000 parties in the country. Forming a party is not the solution.
Q: Are you going to join the Trinamool Congress?
A: I have friendly relations with so many leaders. That does not mean that I will join their party. I have good relations with Nitish Kumar of JDU who is right now in NDA.
Q: AAP and its leaders, too, have come up because of a people’s movement. Any plans of working with them?
A: Arvind Kejriwal is a good friend of mine. He is working in a positive way for Delhi, especially in the field of education and schooling. I am not against him; I am with him for the good work that he is undertaking.
Q: Will you contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
A: No, Why should I? If I win, I will get a home in Delhi and I will be restricted to giving sound-bites to the media. But that will not bring the solution that I am looking for. I want to work on the ground and prepare a blueprint to help farmers and youths, which I will share with the government and ask them to implement, if not in the entire country, at least in the region where I come from.