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It's unlikely that the 22-year-old alone could have mobilized 5 lakh people at the GMDC Ground here on Tuesday. Equally interesting was the way the event was managed — from getting parking for thousands of vehicles to obtaining permissions and mobilizing funds.
Hardik's rise has baffled everyone. He was a member of the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), a Patidar youth body, and president of its Viramgam unit. He was ousted from the post as SPG leader Lalji Patel wasn't amenable to Hardik promoting his outfit PAAS. Formed only in July, PAAS has shaken Gujarat's stability, becoming the rallying point for Patels.
Many believe bigger forces are at work. Hardik, who graduated with less than 50% marks from Ahmedabad's Sahajanand College, hails from a middle-class family from Viramgam near Ahmedabad. He helps his father, once a smalltime BJP leader, run a business in submersible pumps. "His father Bharatbhai got to know CM Anandiben Patel when Mandal-Virgamgam was her constituency. Maybe something happened that hurt the family," a BJP leader said.
Who are those behind this stormy agitation and Hardik? This question has as yet remained unanswered. An audio clip, circulated before the Ahmedabad rally in defence of CM Anandiben Patel, hinted at unknown forces behind the agitation. It urged agitating Patels to realise that a conspiracy had been hatched to destabilize the government.
Hardik's photographs with VHP's Pravin Togadia, who has a strained relationship with PM Modi and Anandiben were in circulation. Rumours of Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar backing Hardik started doing the rounds after he mentioned them in his address. Kumar has publicly supported the Patel movement.
Patidars have been associated with religious outfits known to manage huge gatherings in a disciplined manner. That expertise seemed at work in all the Patidar rallies. Rich Patidars hosted those who came for Tuesday's rally. But the magnitude of the event showed crores were spent for its success.