Want to see Rahulji or Mamata Didi as Prime Minister: Hardik Patel

Hardik Patel on why he will not contest in the 2019 elections, and his hopes on who will next be Prime Minister.

WrittenBy:Amit Bhardwaj
Date:
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In an exclusive conversation with Newslaundry, Hardik Patel, the leader of Gujarat’s Patidar agitation, reveals his plan for the 2019 general election, and why “Rahulji and Mamata didi” are his preferred choices for the Prime Minister’s post. He raises question marks on the opposition’s role in Gujarat in the past six months, and on Alpesh Thakor’s future in the Congress party. Here are excerpts from the conversation where he takes on the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the opposition party in Gujarat.

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Amit Bhardwaj: You have been convicted by the court and awarded a two year jail term. There are dozen similar cases pending against you. If the decision in these cases too goes against you, what will you do? Where do you see your future: inside a jail or in Parliament?

Hardik Patel: I don’t bother about my future. When we started the movement, we never thought of the court cases or the police actions. However, we will appeal against the court’s order in the higher courts—High Court and the Supreme Court. We will seek justice.

Had Bhagat Singh thought about his future, this country won’t have got freedom. Had Mahatma Gandhi, after returning from South Africa, bothered about his barrister career, this country wouldn’t have been free.

Also, it’s not even a question of where we are. We have already achieved what we had to; I don’t need to sit in the Parliament. Even those who are holding the offices of Chief Minister and Prime Minister couldn’t stand in front of our movement. I don’t need to take credit for these achievements by getting elected to Parliament.

As far as the court cases are concerned, it doesn’t prove that I am guilty. Cases were registered against the Prime Minister [Narendra Modi], Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah. Cases—including those under section 302 [murder]—are registered against Yogi Adityanath. At least we have not murdered anyone, we were running a movement. Several political leaders were jailed for 20 months during the JP movement and the movement against the Emergency. That doesn’t mean they were criminals.

Are you comparing your quota agitation with that of JP movement?  

I compare it with the Independence struggle of [the country].

For you, are the reservation movement and the freedom struggle the same thing?

No, the question is: why oppose reservation? Reservation has been granted by the Constitution, right? The freedom struggle is supreme, so is the Constitution. Every constituent part of the Constitution stands right next to the freedom struggle. What we are seeking is constitutional, and no individual is bigger than the Constitution of this country. The provision for reservation has been granted by the founding fathers of the nation and the Constitution.

Have you people or the government ever thought why the Patidars—who were once a prosperous community in Gujarat—are demanding reservation? Government policies have destroyed the education system. Without paying donation, one cannot get admission in colleges. There is large-scale unemployment. Agricultural infrastructure is shattered. These are the triggering points. We are not against any community.

If you are speaking about reservation on the basis of economic status, then it is a different debate altogether. However, you are fighting just for the Patidar community.

I always say, ‘Jiski jinti sankhyadari, usko utni bhagidari(Give reservation as per the population percentage of each community)’. This is the socialist approach. If Brahmins constitute 3 per cent of the country’s population, if Dalits form 5 per cent of the population—give them reservation according to their numbers.

You referred to Dalits. Several political leaders are criticising the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They say the verdict has weakened the law. What is your stand on this?

The Supreme Court’s verdict on the SC/ST Act is being misinterpreted by a certain section of politicians. The Supreme Court has neither diluted the Act, nor has it taken a step which is against the Dalit community. This decision will save innocents who are at times wrongly framed under the atrocities act. But it’s also a fact that Dalits and tribals have been subjected to atrocities by those castes who hate them. Legal action must be taken against such persons.

Do you think that your own friend Jignesh Mevani is politicising this issue?

I have said on several occasions that he should read the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Act. We shouldn’t shoot in the dark. However, I am not against the issues related to Dalits and tribals.

We have seen activists turning into politicians. Your associates Mevani and Alpesh Thakor have already successfully contested the Gujarat assembly polls. Hardik, you have turned 25 now. Will you contest the Lok Sabha polls or not?  

I have made it clear that I am not going to contest in the 2019 elections. Unless I have a blueprint to serve the people, I will not contest elections. I don’t want to become a leader who enters politics to fool the masses.

In 2019, on one side you have Prime Minister Narendra Modi…

(interrupts) If the government is formed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Nitin Gadkari will be the Prime Minister.

But as a youth and an activist, who do you want to become the Prime Minister in 2019?

I want to see those in power who can save the democracy and the democratic values of the country. Be it Mamata Didi, Mayawati or Rahulji. This country should run by the democratic ethos.

When Mamata Banerjee didn’t give permission to Amit Shah’s rally in West Bengal, I saw they started an outcry. In Gujarat, the BJP is in power. Why aren’t they giving us permission to start the hunger strike from August 25?

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And between Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi, whom do you prefer?

First priority is Rahul Gandhi.

Why?

Rahul Gandhi’s family—be it Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi—has sacrificed their blood for this country. The Congress has contributed a lot to this country, be it the green revolution, education system, or the basic health infrastructure.

We have seen news reports where Rahul Gandhi has said that if the government is formed by the opposition parties, he is ready to see Mamata Banerjee or Mayawati as the Prime Minister. Whom do you prefer amongst the opposition leaders?

I have said earlier as well that after Rahul Gandhi, I prefer Mamata Banerjee. She has struggled for her people and her state. I respect them for their struggles and movements.

Generally, it’s asked how you rate the governing party’s work. I would rather ask you this: how do rate the opposition parties’ work in the past six months in Gujarat?

Even you people think that the opposition’s role in Gujarat is far more important than those in power.

Why not? In any democratic system, the opposition plays a vital role in ensuring the government frames pro-policies.

So the governing party’s role is just to break the opposition parties’ lawmakers and stay in power? And the opposition parties’ role is to expose the governing party in front of the voters? In that case, the opposition parties have done nothing in Gujarat. It has not spoken on even a single issue. And that is why we often say that the Congress fails to clinch power in the state because it never raises the pro-people issues.

Even though you have not questioned me about the BJP’s performance, in the past six months, they have only indulged in corruption. They have attempted to break the Congress lawmakers by offering them ministerial berths.

The voters have more expectation from the opposition than the government. But it has failed to deliver.

If the opposition has failed to deliver, do you agree that even Jignesh and Alpesh have a role to play in it?

Jignesh is doing a good job.

And Alpesh?

He hardly has a month’s time left.

What do you mean by that?

You will get to know about the developments within a month. I am not speaking openly, as I don’t want to hurt him. But within a month, facts about him will be out in the public.

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