In an explosive Nation Wants To Know interview with Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, youth leader Hardik Patel has distanced himself from Jignesh Mevani, the MLA from Gujarat's Vadgam, and others with whom he has previously been associated.
During the Gujarat assembly elections last year, Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore had formed a triumvirate that the BJP had described as the 'Congress outsourcing its leadership'. At that time, the trio had appeared to put up a united anti-BJP front, holding road-shows, mobilizing support and criticising the Modi government on a range of issues.
However, during the interview, Hardik Patel voiced his opposition to Jignesh Mevani over two defining and infamous matters in which the latter has been embroiled.
When asked about Mevani's call for a 'street war' to settle caste disputes that was issued at the event to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, after which violent and debilitating caste clashes did, in fact, erupt, Hardik Patel categorically disagreed.
"I have never supported violence and nor will I. My goal is that fights within us (society) should end."
"If Jignesh supports (violence), if Shehla Rashid supports, I will stand against them."
Following his mention of former JNU students union vice-president Shehla Rashid and on being probed further on his association with the 'Tukde Tukde Gang', Hardik Patel flared up, saying:
"Which Tukde Tukde Gang am I a part of? Which JNU do I study in? I say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'. I don't say 'free terrorists'"(a reference to the protests in support of Afzal Guru and the infamous 'Bharat ke tukde tukde honge' sloganeering that is alleged to have taken place on the JNU campus.)
"Bharat Mata is incomplete without me. All 1.25 billion Indians comprise Bharat Mata", Hardik Patel added.
When asked about sharing many a stage and studio with Jignesh Mevani and the JNU leaders, Hardik Patel rejected the notion that he should be linked with them.
"Am I a member of Mevani's party? Does being in an interview with him mean that I am a friend of his?"
He gave evidence of this when speaking about the deplorable 'haddi galana' (melt one's bones -- no appropriate meaningful translation in English) remark that Jignesh Mevani had made against PM Modi in a live interview during which Hardik Patel was also present, he said,
"He is the Prime Minister of the country. One shouldn't say such things about the Prime Minister. I told Mevani this. I told him openly. If he does wrong, we can criticise but not use such language."