Threat to Patel-BJP meet

Hardik Patel's aides are camping in Surat to sabotage a felicitation that local Patidar businessmen will organise on Thursday for BJP president Amit Shah, chief minister Vijay Rupani and the party's Patel lawmakers.

By Basant Rawat
  • Published 6.09.16
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Ahmedabad, Sept. 5: Hardik Patel's aides are camping in Surat to sabotage a felicitation that local Patidar businessmen will organise on Thursday for BJP president Amit Shah, chief minister Vijay Rupani and the party's Patel lawmakers.

Hardik's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, agitating for OBC reservation for Patidars (Patels), want to emulate the Dalit activists who disrupted the BJP's "social harmony" meetings for their community at Una on Wednesday and in Ahmedabad yesterday.

Businessmen in the Patel-dominated diamond hub of Surat had initially supported the one-year-old agitation led by Hardik, 23, who is now based at Udaipur in Rajasthan because his July bail condition mandates a six-month exile from Gujarat.

But with just over a year left for state elections, the ruling BJP has been making overtures to them, trying to win back a one-time vote bank whose desertion cost the party in last year's local polls.

A section of Surat's businessmen seem to have reciprocated, at least partly because of their businessmen interests, local BJP sources said.

Mahesh Sawani and Mukesh Patel, two of Surat's leading Patidar businessmen, have formed a Patidar Abhivadan Samiti, which will hold the felicitation in Surat's Patel-dominated Varachha locality. They claim the support of over 200 local Patel businessmen.

Hardik's lieutenants are mobilising the Patidars in Surat, holding a series of meetings to ensure the community disrupts the event even if some of the activists themselves are arrested, which appears a possibility.

"We have formed three teams and have a Plan B and a Plan C ready. If one team is arrested, another will surface," activist Reshma Patel said over the phone from Surat.

"But we'll make sure the Patidars make their presence felt at the venue, the P.P. Sawani School Ground."

Apart from Shah and Rupani, the invitees include state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, Union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya, and the BJP's 44 Patidar MLAs.

Vaghani, a Patel recently elevated as state unit chief, said the community wanted to "felicitate us" because the party had accommodated so many Patidars in its ranks.

"But people are asking that if the event is meant to felicitate Patidar leaders, why have Shah and Rupani, both Vaniyas, been invited?" Jitu Barot, a senior BJP leader, told this newspaper.

"Besides, if it's a community function, why have non-BJP Patidar politicians not been invited?" asked Reshma.

Diamond merchant and builder Mukesh Patel, one of the event's chief organisers, said he wasn't worried about "disgruntled members of society like Hardik who are engaged in negative, paid politics".

"Our programme will go on. We are not organising the function to obtain favours from this government," he said.