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That don't impress them much! BJP's bid to woo the Patels creates a bigger rift

Rathin Das | Updated on: 10 September 2016, 16:08 IST

The felicitation programme in Surat on Thursday was meant to be the ruling BJP's efforts to reconnect with Gujarat's Patel community. The Patels' have been miffed with the party for the last one year because of their agitation demanding reservations in government jobs and higher educational institutions.

But the outreach programme to woo the Patels back to the party fold failed miserably and as a result of which the president of the "world's largest party" had to sum up his speech, in his home state, in just about three or four minutes.

The programme to felicitate the 'achievers' and leaders of the community was itself a measure of the party's success in driving a wedge within the leadership that had been spearheading the quota agitation for the last one year.

But the crores spent on the extravagant arrangements, typical of Gujarat BJP, went down the drain within minutes as the Patel youths beat their hitherto favourite party in its own game - by entering the venue with saffron caps on their heads and scarves round their necks. The very attire that has given hooligans the powers for 'moral' policing for two decades.

Gainers and losers

All that BJP national president Amit Shah could convey to his predominantly Patel audience in the diamond city was that the community has gained enormously during the party's two-decade-long rule in Gujarat.

Shah is not wrong in his claim as the Patels have reaped huge benefits from almost all the 'development' schemes involving real estate deals, infrastructural projects and big contracts which ensured that the party faced no problems in 'Dhan Sangraha', a fashionable, Sanskritised word for what critics might describe differently as contribution, donation, extortion or subscription.

That don't impress them much

Amit Shah declared emphatically that development of Gujarat, growth of the BJP and progress of the Patels were all interconnected.

But the Patels remained unimpressed with this assertion of bonhomie and gave the BJP president a piece of their mind by shouting slogans hailing Hardik Patel, the 23-year-old youth who busted the myth of 'developed' Gujarat by leading the agitation for job quotas for the economically and socially influential community.

As the police sprang into action to gag and drag the protesters out, the Patel youths in the garb of BJP workers got more incensed and started throwing chairs and tearing off posters.

The organisers had anticipated such trouble and the huge stage was separated with a wire mesh from the audience's enclosure to ensure that anything thrown could not reach the leaders' dais. But, then, verbal abuses and emotional outbursts respect no fencing - wire meshes or otherwise.

Keep it brief

In fact, BJP president Amit Shah and the party's state unit president Jitubhai Vaghani had to cut short their speeches to bare few minutes as pandemonium broke out in the huge tent house erected for the event.

Even the BJP's pet slogan 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', now being projected as the yardstick for measuring one's patriotism, was countered by the Patel youths who shouted 'Jai Sardar', 'Jai Patidar' and 'Hardik Hardik'.

The point to be noted here is that during their happier times with the BJP, the same Patel youths would have been far too willing to lynch a 'lesser' citizen for showing any disrespect to the slogan 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.

This newly developed 'immunity' of Patel youths towards the BJP's call sign 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' is also indicative of the distance the community has mentally travelled away from the very party they had helped grow with all their money, muscle, logistics, electoral and electronic power.

The epitome of electronic power, the social media, was once full of paeans for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and Hindutva in general. But, the same social media items have now ridiculed the speeches of BJP president Amit Shah and state party chief Jitubhai Vaghani as having entered the Guinness Book for being the shortest in history.

With this event to felicitate Patel stalwarts, BJP wanted to show its strength within the community even one year after the turmoil but it has finally revealed the chinks in its armour.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also read: The real reason for the Patel mess: RSS's mission to abolish reservation

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First published: 10 September 2016, 15:23 IST