Is the BJP's mission outreach toward Patels just failing? If the events of Thursday are anything to go by, then these are definitely warning signals for the ruling party in the state. What was being touted as a show of strength by the party, in the Patel stronghold of Surat, turned out to be a fiasco with slogans in favour of youth icon Hardik and against the BJP. And all this was in the presence of national party chief Amit Shah and newly-appointed CM Vijay Rupshi.
The BJP is well aware of the community's strength and power. Hence, this was the second attempt by the BJP to reach out to the Patels in a matter of few days.
Just the previous month, Prime Minister Nagendra Modi launched the SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation) Yojna in the Patel heartland of Saurashtra. And on Thursday, party president Amit Shah tried to reach out from another Patel stronghold of Surat.
But, a rattled Shah wound up his speech in less than six minutes. A proposed show of strength at a place where Hardik had been jailed for more than six months on charges of sedition, will force the BJP to do a rethink of its strategy to reach out to the community that comprises of 18 percent of the population. A bus was burnt and chairs were thrown forcing everyone on the dias to cut short their speeches.
While Shah might have to rethink his strategy, Thursday's development would definitely bring a smile on Hardik's face in Udaipur.
Hardik, who is not only fighting a court case against the charges and his exile, is also trying to keep his flock together which is deserting him. Two members and Hardik aides of PAAS (Patidaar Anamat Andolan Samiti) have quit after levelling allegations that Hardik was busy earning money and deserting the cause. But Surat has ensured that Hardik remains an issue for the forthcoming assembly elections in the state.
On Thursday, BJP president Amit Shah along with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and other party leaders were booed off stage as the members of Hardik Patel's PAAS created ruckus and vanadalised furniture at a programme to felicitate Patel leaders.
Chaos prevailed outside the venue as well as in Mota Varraccha area, where Patidar community members from the locality hurled stones at police. The function, supposed to be the show of strength of BJP in the Patidar stronghold, wound up hastily within minutes with Patel leaders cutting short their speeches while Shah could speak for hardly four minutes amid sloganeering.
The ruckus started even before the commencement of the function with the Patel quota agitators raising slogans like "Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar" and hailing Hardik, even as they damaged furniture at the venue and flung chairs in air.
The programme was organised by 'Patidar Abhivadan Samiti', an outfit floated by a local businessmen, to felicitate Patidar leaders including the newly-appointed state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, Union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Manshukh Mandaviya.
Though police detained several members of Patidar community, the protest continued. The slogan shouting continued even when top BJP leaders like Shah and Rupani started their respective address, forcing them to cut short their speech.
While Shah wound up within four minutes, Rupani too could not speak for more than three minutes. The organisers abruptly declared the programme closed and the leaders were whisked away.
The showdown was anticipated as the programme, viewed as BJP's outreach to Patels for 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, was organised in the Patel-dominated Mota Varraccha area.
Hardik-led PAAS and Sardar Patel Group (SPG) of Lalji Patel, who are spearheading the quota stir, had called upon their supporters on Wednesday to protest at the venue of Thursday's programme.
With inputs from PTI