Spreading ‘Hardik’ sex video points at the growing desperation of BJP in Gujarat

The BJP is feeling jittery as its time-honoured formula of creating a Hindu-Muslim divide is not working

By Nachiketa Desai

The slogan ‘Jai Sardar’ made popular by the youth activists of the pro-quota Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) appears to be neutralising the war cry of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ of the Sangh Parivar by which the Bharatiya Janata Party had sharpened the Hindu-Muslim divide to win three successive Assembly elections in Gujarat since 2002.

Led by 23-year-old Hardik Patel, PAAS activists have been giving a harrowing time to the BJP poll campaigners by greeting them with protest demonstrations shouting ‘Jai Sardar’ slogans. BJP MLAs, municipal councillors and panchayat leaders are compelled to move in their home constituencies under police protection.

Video clips showing BJP poll campaigners facing fusillade of rotten eggs are going viral on social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and WhatsApp. Signboards have come up on the entrance of over 4,000 villages saying ‘Section 144 of the CrPC is in force for BJP workers’, meaning there is a ban on their entry.

Shaken by a series of memes, stand up comedies, cartoons and photographs spreading like wild fire on social media under the tagline #VikasGandoThayoChhe, exposing the hollowness of the much tom-tomed ‘Gujarat development model’, the BJP began targeting youth leaders of PAAS by foisting criminal cases against them.

BJP’s vindictive action crossed all limits of decency when a ‘sex CD’ allegedly showing Hardik Patel in a compromising position with a girl began circulating through the social media.  Supporters of the erstwhile Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, are old hats in this game. In 2005, a similar CD claiming to show national secretary of their own party, Sanjay Joshi, with a woman was circulated to malign him. Joshi was removed from his post.

What appears to have queered the pitch in the run-up to the December state Assembly elections is the decision of PAAS convener Hardik Patel to come out openly in the support of the Congress after he was satisfied by the party’s assurance to him guaranteeing reservation benefits to the Patidars under the Constitution.

Hardik, along with other core committee members of PAAS, had discussed the formula prepared by the legal experts of the party including former minister Kapil Sibal. Hardik said after discussing the formula threadbare, the PAAS had come to the conclusion that the Congress formula could guarantee reservation to the Patels without the apprehension of it being struck down by the Supreme Court.

The PAAS core committee decision has opened up a possibility of the Patidars, particularly those in rural areas and economically weak, to go with the Congress in large numbers which could deal a serious blow to the BJP vote bank.

The Patidars, popularly known as Patels, who constitute 15 to 17 per cent of Gujarat population, had been solidly backing the BJP in all the past general elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assembly.

It was within hours of PAAS accepting the Congress formula that the alleged sex video purported to be of Hardik went viral on the social media. Hardik rubbished the video as morphed and fake aimed to derail the pro-quota stir.

Recalling his statement before the media on November 3 that he anticipated the BJP of resorting to “dirty political games” to discredit him including the possibility of bringing out some sex videos, Hardik said the youth seen in the video was morphed with his photograph.

Lalji Patel, convener of the Sardar Patel Group, which too has been with PAAS in the pro-reservation agitation, also condemned the BJP’s “dirty politics” in making public such scandalous videos and demanded that it be tested in the Forensic Science Laboratory to prove its authenticity. Both Hardik and Lalji said the alleged fake video would not be able to discourage them from fighting for the just demands of the Patidars nor would the Patel community be misled by such attempts by the ruling party.

State Congress spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil said this only showed that the BJP was nervous fearing defeat in the Assembly elections. It was going down to any level to discredit its opponents.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who concluded his three-day trip to campaign for the party in the north Gujarat region yesterday, also referred to the three young emerging leaders including Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakore and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, as the “voice of the oppressed.”

Without referring to the sex video, Rahul told a rally of the Patidars in Mehsana that the BJP was trying to “silence” the voices of the young leaders and the people by hook or by crook. “But they will never succeed. Even the mighty Britishers had tried to suppress the voices of the Indians, but could not suppress two leaders from Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and had to leave India,” he said.

Rahul told a meeting of the Dalits to discuss their grievances with the local Congress leaders and ensure that their issues were incorporated in the Congress manifesto for the elections. “Once it is mentioned in the manifesto, we will implement it if the Congress is voted to power,” he said and sounded a word of caution for the future chief minister. “Whosoever is made the Chief Minister, he will not be there if the party election manifesto is not implemented in letter and spirit,” he said.

To women, Rahul assured a 50 per cent reservation in the state legislature and a similar quota in Parliament when the party returned to power at the Centre. “You are asking for 33 per cent reservation,” he told a meeting of the women, “but I want women to have equal representation with men in the state Assembly and later in Parliament when the time comes,” he said.

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