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BJP hai hai: Amit Shah greeted with anti-party slogans in Sardar Patel's home village

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 2 October 2017, 13:29 IST
(BJP Gujarat/Twitter)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been continuing tirelessly to woo the annoyed Patidars back into its fold for a while now, but their woes on the Patel-front show no signs of decreasing. In fact, things just seem to be getting worse.

This was marked by the protest held by youngsters at Karamsad just when BJP President Amit Shah was about to start speaking before flagging off the ambitious outreach campaign – Gujarat Gaurv Yatra – on Sunday.

However, these protests were blacked out by the media. The BJP president would not have imagined that he would be greeted with slogans of 'BJP hai hai...' in BJP's stronghold.

What is of bigger concern for the BJP is that this protest happened at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's village in the affluent Charotar area of the state. This area had remained quiet throughout the period when Patel agitation for reservation in jobs and educational institutions had been at its peak. Till now, the Patel unrest had mainly been confined to South Gujarat, Saurashtra, and North Gujarat. But the issue has spread.

BJP hai hai...

Sources say that after Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, his predecessor Anandiben Patel, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and senior cabinet minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma had spoken at the event, Amit Shah got up to deliver his address.

Just as he started speaking, a large number of youngsters from the Patidar or Patel community created a ruckus as they raised slogans of 'Jai Sardar, Patidar' and 'BJP hai hai'.

While Amit Shah kept speaking, these youngsters raised their pitch adding to the chaos. Police personnel tried to stop them but they continued with their sloganeering as they were led out of the venue where they were allegedly attacked by some people from BJP's youth wing.

The BJP had clearly not anticipated such an embarrassment from a hostile group of youth at Karamsad. The protest pretty much hijacked the launch of Gujarat Gaurav Yatra.

“Till now the Patels of the Charotar belt had remained quiet and aloof on the issue of the disenchantment with the BJP. The party leaders have been threatening youngsters with police action. Can you imagine that a community member cannot even raise the slogan of 'Jai Sardar, Patidar' that denotes love and respect for India's Iron Man and the community and that too in Sardar Patel's homeland?” asked a local Patel youth leader, Ravi Patel.

“It was six months ago that we had raised the first voice of protest by inviting our youth leader Hardik Patel to Karamsad where he took a vow with the soil of Sardar's birthplace in hand to unite the Patidar community throughout the country. The BJP has been rattled in this area since then,” he added.

Where are your crowds BJP?

It is being pointed out that the programme for the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra was to start at around 9 AM but was delayed by around three hours because the venue had scant attendance. “They actually brought people from the neighbouring town of Nadiad,” pointed out a local.

The BJP leadership has always tried to invoke Sardar Patel's name for its political motive and has been successfully launching several political campaigns from places in central Gujarat like Phagvel and Karamsad. In fact, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the then Gujarat chief minister, had launched his controversial Gujarat Gaurav Yatra of 2002 also from Phagvel.

This correspondent was present at one of the programmes addressed by Modi at Sardar Patel University at Vallabh Vidya Nagar near Karamsad where he had raised questions like – What would India have been like if Sardar Patel was alive and what would have been the fate of the country if he was made the first prime minister?

BJP Gujarat/Twitter

Ripple effect

The protest at Karamsad this Sunday is likely to have severe ramifications for the BJP.

Charotar is the area of some of the most prosperous Patels. It is also the most prominent NRI belt of Gujarat from where at least one member of every Patel household is believed to be working or settled abroad with a considerable number of them having made it big in the United States of America.

A large number of these Patels have been responsible for making Modi events in the US a success including his rally at Madison Square in 2014.

There is a common saying in Gujarat that motels in the US are now known as 'Potels' with the Charotar Patels having acquired most of them.

“With their kin back home being unhappy at the treatment being meted out to them by the BJP government here, they surely going to distance themselves from the party supporters in the US. They will dent Modi's image internationally, not only in the US, but in other countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well where they are settled in large numbers. A large number of Patels are already annoyed with Modi for his shows of strength in that country which has led to several Americans getting agitated and targeting Patels,” said Ravi Patel.

“This protest is definitely not a good omen for the BJP. The party leaders know that they are facing an anti incumbency accumulated over the last 22 years. They also know that this time there is a razor-thin difference between 'perception' and 'reality'. Earlier what was perceived on a couple of occasions was not real. But this time, this reality has gone down the rank and file of the party making workers and the leaders nervous,” pointed out a senior media person and political analyst who has been covering Gujarat politics for more than two decades.

What is interesting is that the Modi government's plan of constructing the tallest statue of Sardar Patel at Kevadiya also seems to have outlived its political utility. On the eve of the last Assembly polls in Gujarat, the party had made a lot of song and dance over the issue and the drive to collect iron pieces from farmers across the country for building this statue.

This time around, the Patidars in the Sardar's home district can be heard saying – “They used the iron pieces collected in Sardar's name to manufacture guns to shoot the Patidar youth.”

Despite his speech being interrupted by the agitated Patidar youth, Amit Shah launched a strong attack on the Congress before the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra was flagged off. He attacked the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for questioning the 'Gujarat development model'. He also played up the BJP narrative of the Congress having done immense injustice to Gujarat.

Shah said that when the results of the forthcoming Assembly polls are counted, people will be making fun of those who are at present mocking the Gujarat model of development. He was making an indirect reference to the 'Vikas gando thayo chhe' that has hit the BJP very hard on the social media turf.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 2 October 2017, 13:07 IST