Surat: Prominent Patel businessmen in the city have decided to felicitate BJP leaders of their community in the presence of party chief Amit Shah on Thursday.
BJP, which is struggling hard to regain the support of numerically strong Patidars in Gujarat after the community led by Hardik Patel launched the quota agitation, has made this event a prestige issue.
The party expects strong presence of the Patel community at the event, to affirm that the Patidars are with them in the run up to the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections. While Hardik Patel-led PAAS has asked the community to oppose the felicitation programme, city-based prominent businessmen have formed a group called 'Patidar Abhivadan Samiti', to honour the new state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and Union ministers of Patel community.
"This felicitation of Patidar leaders is for the community, is for the state and is for the nation," said full page advertisements given in vernacular newspapers across the state by the samiti, inviting Patel community members to come in large numbers for the programme.
Apart from Shah, Chief minister Vijay Rupani and former chief minister Anandiben Patel will also be present at the event. During the time of Patel quota agitation last year, Surat remained a hotbed of activities of those demanding the quota for the community.
"Lakhs of Patidar community members will remain present in the felicitation programme in Surat. Party national chief Amit Shah and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani will also be present," state BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said.
However, PAAS and Sardar Patel Group (SPG), have decided to oppose the programme. "We have called upon our people to protest at the venue of the programme," a release by PAAS said.
Hardik is in Udaipur town of Rajasthan at present as the Gujarat High Court has ordered him to stay outside the state for six months as his bail condition. SPG's Lalji Patel also said that they will boycott the programme and stage protest at the venue.
Shah's presence in the programme has led to allegations by quota agitators that it is BJP which has asked city businessmen to organise such a programme to win over the Patel community in the run up to the 2017 Gujarat elections.
Shah is also scheduled to address BJP workers meeting in Vyara town of Tapi district and inaugurate state BJP office in Surat city on Thursday.