The spearhead of the massive Patidar Andolan that shook Gujarat last year, Hardik Patel, soon going to be out on bail, is actually the fourth Gujarati leader to have been externed from the state – the other three being Sanjay Joshi, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
While Joshi and Modi had been asked by their party - the BJP - not to enter Gujarat, Shah was kept away from the state by a court order.
Patel, barely 23, spent nine months behind bars on sedition charges for leading a fierce agitation, demanding a quota for his Patidar community.
In July and August last year, Hardik addressed four rallies.
The first one had about 15,000 in attendance, while the last rally on August 25 clocked over half a million people.
He was arrested the next day even as his supporters ran berserk attacking government property and elected representatives.
It is in this backdrop that the ruling BJP government requested the court that Hardik be externed from Gujarat for six months to allow the situation return to normal.
|In July and August last year, Hardik addressed four rallies.
BJP had sought this reprieve because it has already planned to replace chief minister Anandiben Patel after she turns 75 in November this year.
Since Patidars are angry with Anandiben, BJP leadership thought, they would not be so inimical to a new CM face, most probably Nitin Patel.
But Hardik is no political novice. He has been in touch with the backward Patel-Kurmi leaders from UP, besides Jat leaders of Haryana and Rajasthan.
He is likely to keep himself busy in all these states, especially UP, which goes to polls in February next year.
BJP has high stakes in UP, especially after the reverses suffered by the party in Bihar and Delhi. UP is being seen as the semi-final for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The state had contributed 71 out of the 282 MPs that BJP managed to win in the last general elections.
The importance the party attaches to UP was more than apparent during cabinet reshuffle effected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week. He inducted a Kurmi leader - Anupriya Patel - in his cabinet to woo the community which forms 10 per cent of the population.
In fact, it was Anupriya's father, Sonelal Patel, who, as a BSP leader, had launched an aggressive Patel Self-Assertion Movement in 1994. He had called all fellow Kurmis to abdicate their sub-caste and use Patel as their surname.
His reasoning was simple. There were 40 Kurmi MLAs in the UP Assembly then as against only 36 Yadav legislators, yet Yadav had cornered all plum positions just because the then chief minister was Mulayam Singh Yadav, heading a SP-BSP coalition government.
Yadav population in the state was around 15 per cent, constituting 40 per cent of all backwards in Uttar Pradesh.
While the Yadav community has always stood solidly behind Mulayam Singh Yadav all these years, Kurmis have remained fragmented between BSP and BJP.
The community veered towards the Congress during 2009 elections because if two factors: first, emergence of strong Kurmi leader in Beni Prasad Varma and second, drifting of Muslims towards it because of induction of "Babri-demolished" Kalyan Singh in the SP.
The Congress won 22 out of 80 seats at stake then, the second highest tally.
This time Kurmis are again caught in a dilemma between BSP and BJP.
Beni Prasad Varma, by shifting to Samajwadi Party, has further compounded their misery.
Meanwhile, another strong Kurmi leader, Nitish Kumar, is likely to throw his hat into UP's ring from neighbouring Bihar.
It is in this context that Hardik - during his externment term - can play a significant role in UP.
He is already in touch with opposition leaders such as Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal. While Kumar has a stake in UP, Kejriwal is likely to make some inroads in Gujarat.
Needless to say, the party at the receiving in both these states will be BJP.
Coming back to the case of externed leaders.
Modi had been banished from Gujarat by his party. He returned as the chief minister of the state, ultimately rising to become the prime minister of the country.
Amit Shah had been asked by the court to stay out of Gujarat. He became the BJP president and the "second most important person" under Modi's dispensation.
Sanjay Joshi, too, had been externed by the BJP under Modi's pressure and is cooling his heels in the wilderness.
Which fate awaits Hardik Patel?