Days after BJP leaders representing north Indian migrants in Surat demanded an apology for his remarks, BJP MP from Navsari C R Patil organised a meeting of north Indian BJP workers in Pali Gam on Sunday night as a show of strength.
The meeting — Uttar Bharatiya Karyakarta Sammelan — was attended by Bihar BJP unit president Nityanand Rai, Uttar Pradesh education minister Neelkanth Tiwari and MLA from Majura, Harsh Sanghvi. Senior leaders like state BJP president Jitu Vaghani, state BJP general secretary Bharatsinh Parmar and Surat city BJP president Nitin Bhajiyawala, however, skipped the meeting.
Patil, a Maharashtrian who is also the party’s co-in charge of Bihar state, downplayed the suggestion that the meeting was an attempt to showcase himself as the representative of north Indians. “The Assembly elections are near and for that we have been working on organising this meeting of north Indian BJP workers in Surat for the last 15 days. We are happy that leaders from UP and Bihar came to Surat on our invitation,” he said.
Asked about the absence of some senior local BJP leaders, Patil replied: “(Gujarat BJP chief) Jitubhai and Bharatsinhji were busy with work, so they did not come. We had invited local municipal councillors and Surat city BJP president Nitin Bhajiyawala and others, but they also did not turn up. They might be busy.” Bhajiyawala, when contacted, said that they were unable to attend the meeting “as we were stuck with our pre-decided events”.
The rift in the party’s Surat unit came to the fore last week after former BJP councillor Yajuvendra Dubey along with some local leaders representing north Indians took out a rally here under the banner of Uttar Bhartiya Rail Sangharsh Samiti, demanding more trains to Surat from UP and Bihar. Dubey had also invited local Congress leaders hailing from UP to take part in the rally. Last Tuesday, they met BJP Gujarat in-charge Bhupendra Yadav, who was in Surat, and requested him to help them to meet their demand.
Patil, who was also present at the meeting, entered into an heated argument with Dubey and others, calling them “Congress workers”. The following day, Dubey met Surat city BJP chief Nitin Bhajiyawala and demanded a public apology from the MP. Patil’s supporters, most of who are Maharashtrians, on the other hand gave a memorandum to Bhajiyawala, demanding disciplinary action against Dubey and others for “tarnishing Patil’s image”.
Speaking about the Sunday’s meeting of north Indian BJP workers, Dubey said, “All north Indian municipal councillors did not attend the programme as they are supporting us. We have come to know that Patil had brought Maharashtrian people at the event to show the presence of a large number of people. We have today decided to make representations to state BJP leadership and Chief Minister Vijaybhai Rupani against Patil.”