As the campaigns of the various political parties hots up for the assembly elections in Gujarat, a non-political player, Hardik Patel, and his demand for reservation for the Patidar community, is giving the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sleepless nights. Smita Gupta talks to him on the campaign trail in Bhavnagar district, en route to a public meeting in Umrada.You and your movement appear to have shaken Mr Modi and the BJP. This is an agitation by the people of Gujarat, this is a battle being fought by six crore Gujaratis. Who will get shaken and who won’t, only time will tell. We only want to create an environment that will compel all future governments to work in the interest of the people.Is the demand for reservation for the Patidars the topmost priority of your movement? Yes, definitely: this is a social issue. Anyone who aspires to form a government will have to clarify their position on this. Educational institutions in Gujarat have become corrupt, and there are no jobs. This is a matter of great sorrow. All governments will have to focus on these issues. If we get the opportunity to get a decent education, there will be less chance of youth going astray. If they get proper jobs after that, they will be able to lead honourable lives and won’t be forced to do anything wrong.You are representing the interests of the Patidars who want to be included in the OBC quota to avail of reservation, Alpesh Thakore’s movement began by challenging this demand and Jignesh Mewani represents the Dalits. There are social contradictions between the three, and yet you are on a common platform now.We haven’t come together on a common platform, but on issues that concern all of us. We are talking of oppression, they are talking of prohibition, we are talking of reservation and securing jobs, they are saying its important to get good the education. Where is the contradiction? On the question of the OBC quota, whichever government is there, there are many ways in which our demand for reservation can be accommodated, perhaps even through a constitutional amendment. Whatever the results of these elections, do you think the friendship between you, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani can continue?When were we enemies? That is our responsibility.Who will your supporters vote for?They will vote against the BJP, they will vote for their honour, their rights, and will vote so that there will be a prosperous and happy Gujarat.Apart from your demand for reservation, you have been also talking of the demands of the farming community.We want their loans to be waived. For some years we have been saying this is the land of the Green Revolution, this is a land of plenty, this is the land of farmers, and yet in Gujarat even today, many farmers are committing suicide, and they are oppressed by the burden of loans. We want farmers to be given a fair price for their produce.You appeared in the court in Visnagar: do you think the more it appears that the current Gujarat government is trying to act against you, your support will grow. Today you have been delayed, because your return from Mehsana has got converted into a spontaneous road show.People trust me, they agree with my demands. These battles are fought on the basis of issues. We have issues, and whatever legal battles there are, one has to fight them legally. I was to hold my meeting at 4, it is already six because people were there for much of the route. Most people think I won’t be able to make it, but I am told 25,000 people are waiting at Umrada..At the ground level, people from neighbouring villages have come for the meeting to support our issues. What we need are smart villages, not smart cities. If the village is happy, then the cities will automatically become happy places.I have heard you were a social activist, who was handling the social media for the Sardar Patel Group before you started this agitation?At the age of 18, I joined the Sardar Patel Group, and was involved with social issues such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. But at the age of 22, on July 6, 2015, I launched the current agitation. The story of my life and my involvement with social causes would take too long to recount now.If there is a change in government, do you think it will be followed by social changes.In society two kinds of changes take place, social changes and political changes. The social changes are already taking place — people are coming out on the streets and raising their voices. This will be followed by political changes.Will you eventually form a political party?No, no, I won’t do that. I am a social worker.Do you want the Congress to give the Patidars many tickets for the elections?They do that in every election.Are you hoping that the Patidars who get elected will raise your demands inside the government? If the people are strong, then their voices will be raised inside. If the people are strong, what use is to have our representatives inside? We have to become conscious first, not our politicians. It is only when we become conscious, sensible and united, then we will get our demands. The BJP has made a big issue of your meeting with Congress politicians in a hotel. What’s wrong with a social worker meeting politicians? The BJP has become nervous, it has no issues left: it can’t talk about development anymore. It’s my democratic right to meet anyone — I was not meeting terrorists, was I? Are you meeting Rahul Gandhi next week? Yes, absolutely.What issues will you raise? We have already presented our demands: it’s for them to respond. Do you want people from your outfit to contest elections? No, not at all. People are saying that BJP president Amit Shah is nervous about making a public appearance in Gujarat…. I won’t say too much about that: all I can say is that there is an informal Section 144 in 5000 to 6000 villages in Gujarat for the BJP.