Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi in his radio broadcast Mann ki Baat, to express his worry over the violence last week in Gujarat. This was even as Hardik Patel leader of the Patidar Anamat Sanghursh Samiti (PASS) was invoking the Sardar as the icon behind a nationwide agitation demanding reservation for an umbrella of communities from Gujjars to Jats on his visit to Delhi.
“Just as Sardar Patel united scores of small principalities and Kingdoms in British India to become one country, I will make sure that we, the vanshaj (descendents) of Sardar Patel unite all communities agitating for OBC status and present a national front,” he said to a room full of Gujjar leaders from across eight states in Gujjar Bhavan in Patparganj, East Delhi.
According to Akhilesh Katiyar, the manager for the Delhi leg of his tour, Gujjar leaders from eight states were present in the hall. These included leaders of the Delhi-Dehat (rural) chapter of the Gujjar Mahasabha Kesari Singh Gujjar, Nathusingh Gujjar from Madhya Pradesh, Choudhary Shishpal Singh of Uttarakhand and Satvir Singh of the Gujjar Mahasabha.
Colonel Kirorilal Bainsla, leader of the Gujjar reservation agitation in Rajasthan was however not present. Himmat Singh, spokesperson for his movement said that while Colonel Bainsla was prepared to support Patel’s movement, “if he (Hardik Patel) tried to co-opt Jats, we will not support him.”
Earlier, Mr Patel addressed a press conference as well where he announced his intention to “bring the agitation for reservation to Jantar Mantar in Delhi.” “I will travel across the country to wherever there are demands for reservation and unfairly being kept out of the OBC list,” he said. He refuted any plans to enter politics or politicise the PASS movement. “I am not desirous of entering politics or allowing any politician into this movement. We are only agitating for addition of the Patidar community into the list of Other Backward Classes (OBC),” he said.
Mr. Patel is expected to have a few more meetings in Delhi and there is talk that he might visit Madhya Pradesh after his visit to Delhi. There is, therefore a clear move by him to acquire a national persona and invoke a common spirit of the dominant peasant castes across the country who feel that the current state of agriculture, falling farm incomes and educational backwardness will keep them out of the developmental bandwagon.