The stinky politics of Gujarat: Patel agitation, Dalit protests and BJP infighting is pulling party apart

On Tuesday, hundreds of Dalits threatened to gather in Ahmedabad to write postcards to actor Amitabh Bachchan. Their message: 'Kuch din to guzaariya Gujarat mein' to experience 'badboo Gujarat ki.'

Prima facie, the twin taglines of the ongoing Dalit movement appear clever plays on Bachchan's campaign for Gujarat tourism and its tagline 'khushbu Gujarat ki.' But press your ears and nose to the ground and it becomes clear that Gujarat is indeed stinking, both literally and figuratively.

Since the Dalits stopped lifting carcasses to protest violent attacks by gau sevaks in Una almost two months ago, several areas of Gujarat are stinking with rotting remains of animals. That's the literal badboo of Gujarat, Bachchan may now get to experience instead of the advertised khushbu.

Adding to the rot, is the political turmoil in the BJP, creating a milieu that stinks of intrigues, conspiracies and bad blood between former friends who are now bitter rivals.

On Saturday night, a private plane was hurriedly arranged to transport former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to Delhi, where she was summoned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reported The Indian Express.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP chief Amit Shah. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP chief Amit Shah. AFP

Patel was put on the Delhi flight after the BJP witnessed unprecedented scenes at a rally in Surat. The rally organised on Thursday to showcase its grip on the state's Patidars, ironically, ended up exposing the BJP's political decline.

Till a few months ago, it would have been unimaginable that Amit Shah would not be allowed to speak in Gujarat. But, at the rally, Patidar youth booed him with calls of "General Dyer go back" and created so much ruckus that Shah and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had to cut short their speeches and hurriedly wind up the meeting.

According to DNA, while Shah concluded his speech in four minutes, Rupani could only speak for three minutes. The organisers abruptly declared the programme closed and the leaders were whisked away. Patel, who was also on the dais during the bedlam, was summoned to Delhi amid rumours that she may have encouraged the Patidars to disrupt the meeting.

The former CM is reportedly upset with Shah and Rupani for plotting her exit and may have her own reasons to seek vengeance. But her metamorphosis from the CM who took harsh decisions against fellow Patels to someone who might now be encouraging them is indeed ironical.

It is obvious from the unfolding battle that the BJP is being punched from three directions. While Dalits have kept up the attack since the Una incident, Patidars have not relented even a year after their leader Hardik Patel was incarcerated and other activists booked by police under various charges. To add to the double trouble, infighting within the various satraps is threatening to pull the BJP apart.

In August, when Patel quit, surprisingly by putting out her resignation on Facebook, Shah reportedly sought a free hand in the affairs of the state. "Saheb, jeetvani guarantee hu apu chu. Badhu ekvaar mara per chodi do. (Just leave it to me, I guarantee a win), he reportedly told Modi.

But, the drama is not unfolding to Shah's script. The unresolved issues that have put Dalits (around 7 percent) and Patidars (15-18 percent) are threatening to end the BJP's rule in its pocketborough in the next election. Instead of abating, the Dalit and Patidar anger appears to be building up, making the BJP nervous in Gujarat.

Gujarat is important for the BJP because it is the only poll-bound state where the party is the traditional frontrunner. Among the other states where elections are scheduled over the next few months, Punjab is almost a lost cause for the BJP and its ally, the Akali Dal; and in Uttar Pradesh it is facing a resurgent Mayawati and the prospect of a SP-Congress alliance.

Past month when Modi addressed his first public meeting in his home state after the 2014 elections, it prompted DNA to comment the PM could find just "180 minutes in 27 months" for Gujarat. But, now Modi will frequently visit Gujarat over the next three months, ostensibly to reconnect with voters.

In the meantime, the party is bending over backwards to humour the Patidars. On Thursday, after the bedlam in Surat, police arrested more than 130 Patidar youth for disrupting the meeting. But, all of them were released in no time, to be back on the streets of Gujarat the next morning, a striking contrast to the cases that were slapped against Patidars after the reservation stir in 2015.

Obviously, the BJP wants to avoid the stink of another bloody battle with Patidars.

Updated Date: Sep 12, 2016 14:19 PM

Also See