It is unfortunate how the Hardik Patel business has polarised public opinion and the commentariat on the basis of whether or not you like Narendra Modi.
If you like Modi, the Patel agitation is a grand conspiracy hatched by Ahmed Patel or Arvind Kejriwal, or probably both.
If you are against Modi, Hardik Patel is a new revolutionary, as if Bhagat Singh had returned to get India its second freedom, this time from the BJP and Modi.
Both are wrong, and dangerous.
Any issue should be judged on merit. This is a very disruptive agitation with no real demands. There is no possibility of any more reservations, and Patels need that least of all. There is nothing in Hardik Patel's method, speech, style that justifies hailing him as a rising new voice of social empowerment or democratic politics.
He is a demagogue who flaunts firearms, near-violent rhetoric and harks back to a totally outdated politics. He can be no secular mascot.
At the same time, he is too much of an original to be somebody else's puppet or plant. Everything about him tells me that he is more like a Patel version of Raj Thackeray. Try imagining Raj Thackeray with a million-strong crowd of supporters.
The subcontinent specialises in producing this very unique brand of demagogue who can pick up a well-defined ethnic, religious or caste group's real and imagined grievance and build it into a persecution complex.
Among those I have seen are Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Jat leader Mahinder Singh Tikait, Altaf Hussain of the MQM in Pakistan, Gurkha leader Subhash Ghisingh, and Gujjar chieftain Colonel Bainsla. They have achieved immediate adulation of their masses but in the end done nothing for them. They have only left destruction and violence in their wake before fading away.
I am afraid that is the future I see for young Hardik Patel. So nobody, whether friend or foe of Modi, should see much future in him.
(This first appeared on the writer's facebook page.)