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Post-Modi Gujarat: As polls loom, ‘Gen Dyer’ Amit Shah faces Hardik music

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 16, 2018

File photo of Gujarat Chief Vijay Rupani (right) with BJP President Amit Shah -- PTI

For the first time in Indian politics, perhaps, the national president of the party that rules the Centre and the state, the Chief Minister, and others, were seen at a public function sitting behind the safety of a huge net hung across a massive stage to protect them against the possibility of missiles being thrown at them by those they thought were their own captive audience — and in the presence of an elaborate security apparatus.

Late on Thursday evening in Surat, in what was the first huge loss of face and acute political embarrassment for the BJP in Gujarat after 2002, a huge cut-out of BJP President Amit Shah was “beheaded” by irate Patel youths just outside the venue. They also shut off electric supply for some time, plunging the venue in darkness. Police had to burst teargas shells and round up over 50 people to restore order among supporters of the ruling party, that has been in power since 1995 and hopes to usher in a “Congress-mukt” (Congress-free) India.

For the first time, also, a BJP public gathering saw the slogan of Bharat Mata Ki Jai countered by Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar, as the venue echoed with chants of “Hardik, Hardik”, instead of “Modi, Modi”. Amid the chaos, Lalji Patel, who had famously bought the monogrammed suit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Rs. 4.31 crore, somehow managed to “felicitate” Shah, Rupani and Anandiben. It goes without saying that the party could hardly felicitate many Patidar leaders for whom the event was cobbled together in the first place!

Welcome to a post-Modi Gujarat where both the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress Party are being increasingly plagued with intense groupism and dissension, threatening to disturb the two-party system for the first time in about a quarter of a century.

The audience in this first party function organised by the new CM Vijay Rupani a month after assuming office, contemptuously disobeyed the leaders, created unprecedented pandemonium, hurled chairs, and forced Amit Shah to end his ‘speech’ in four minutes and Rupani in two minutes. The massive public show of strength, for which the Gujarat BJP had prepared for well over a month, was cut short from four hours to less than an hour. Shah and company left the venue in a huff — clearly worried about the fallout on the electoral fortunes of their party in the state that goes to Assembly elections in 2017.

The BJP expected to gather about one lakh people, but only a tenth of them actually came. The irate pro-Hardik Patel youth seems to have surreptitiously captured strategic space in the massive tent put up by the BJP, which did not realise what they were up to! As soon as the function began, some of them suddenly emerged from the media gallery chanting Jai Patidar, Jai Sardar, and “General Dyer Go Back”. The Patidar youths have been blaming Shah for masterminding the police crackdown on the Hardik Patel group, that had organised a million-strong pro-reservation rally on August 25, 2015, to weaken the then Anandiben Patel government.

This slogan-shouting sparked a huge pandemonium and a free-for-all ensued, leaving the BJP leaders stunned and red-faced. Some Patel youths were rounded up by party workers and police and whisked away from the venue. Even before the event, the police had rounded up some leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PASS) to ensure peace at the event organised by diamond and real estate businessmen under the banner of the Surat Samasta Patidar Abhivan Samiti, apparently as a tactical offensive to split PASS, which itself is facing a rebellion from some old Hardik supporters.

After the August 30 function organised by the state government in Jamnagar district, in which Modi revived his time-tested development mantra, the ruling party organised the show at Surat, the hub of the Patidar agitation, to build bridges and reconcile with the influential Patels in the run-up to the upcoming polls. With quota warrior Hardik Patel cooling his heels in Udaipur following a court order, the BJP was confident the event would be conducted peacefully. But the ‘grand’ show came a cropper and proved a huge embarrassment.

But the Congress has no reason to rejoice at the apparent decay that has set in in the complacent ruling BJP’s support base, after over two decades in uninterrupted power — that propelled its top leader Narendra Modi to India’s prime ministership. The main opposition party is too busy fighting its own intra-party intransigence than fighting the BJP. In the recent past, some of its top leaders have resigned from various posts, accusing the party leadership and PCC chief Bharatsinh Solanki on various counts. This week alone, former MP and veteran OBC leader Jagadish Thakore, Kunwarji Bavalia and Shaktisinh Gohil — who is also national spokesperson — have resigned from various party responsibilities, apparently on the ticket distribution issue, sensing that the Assembly polls are round the corner.

Published on September 09, 2016

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