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With videos of Patidar youths shouting pro-quota agitation slogans during the Gaurav Yatra events in north Gujarat going viral, the BJP carefully planned stops of the ongoing march in Mehsana and Patan districts and also avoided a public meeting in Unjha, the hotbed of Patidar protest. During the 2015 municipal elections, the party had failed to field a candidate from Unjha on its symbol in view of the Patidar anger.
On Wednesday, in a last minute change, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani joined his deputy Nitin Patel, who belongs to Mehsana, during the Gaurav Yatra events in Patan, Mehsana and Banaskantha districts. The Chief Minister had led the flood relief operations in Patan and Banaskantha districts and had also camped there.
The Chief Minister decided to join the Yatra, a day after his deputy faced protest by Patidar youths duing his event in Patan district. A Gaurav Yatra event of Union Minister Piyush Goyal was also cancelled at the eleventh hour. BJP media in-charge in Mehsana district Laxmansinh Rajput told The Indian Express, “Rupaniji’s schedule was prepared at the last minute. There was no confirmation till last night. It was only in the morning, minutes before the yatra, his participation was communicated to us”.
Meanwhile, Patan police have detained 42 people in connection with the protest in Patan on Tuesday evening. Patan Assistant Superintendent of Police Partharaj Gohil said, “To make ensure no repeat of Tuesday’s incident, today we deployed an anti-morcha squad along with local SoG accompanying the yatra. For public meetings, there were bandobast of state reserve police and mahila platoon.”
He further said, “We have identified the persons who had created nuisance Tuesday night. To ensure no repeated of such an incident in Siddhpur, around 20 policemen in plain clothes were made to sit in the audience. We also carried out proper frisking.”
Videos of people wearing caps of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti removing banners of Gaurav Yatra in Aravalli district have also emerged. When contacted, PAAS media convenor Varun Patel said, “The protests in Bayad (Aravalli district) were part of our agitation against BJP and for quota benefits to the Patidar community. Local workers of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had disrupted the meeting.”
Meanwhile, a day after the protest, Rupani took the lead of the Gaurav Yatra and held the day’s first public event at at Siddhpur in Patan and entourage made elaborate halts in Banaskantha district. During his public meetings, he recalled his five-day camp in the district to monitor the flood relief operations even as Congress MLAs from the region stayed at a Bengaluru resort, just ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections.
He also made an unscheduled stop at the Muslim-dominated town of Vadgam enroute his public meeting at Palanpur. “The most developed and prosperous Muslims are in Gujarat. Maximum Haj pilgrims, who go on the pilgrimage on their own expense, are from Gujarat. This reflects that the Muslims in Gujarat are the most prosperous. The Sachar Committee Report also states that the Muslims are most prosperous and safe in Gujarat. Congress had used the Muslims only as its vote bank,” said Rupani as he interacted with the locals.
In Palanpur, the CM said: “I feel attached to Palanpur and Banaskantha. I was here for five days visiting the most ravaged villages hit by floods, but what did Congress party do? (Its MLAs) enjoyed in Bengaluru in a five-star hotel. People, do not forget this.” he addressed the gathering at Palanpur.
In Mehsana, the Yatra started from Unjha where the CM arrived in a helicopter. No public meeting was held there. The first two receptions were scheduled at Maktupur and Brahmanvada, nearly three-km from Unjha town.
The first public meeting was held in the district at Siddhpur. It was dominated by supporters of Balwantsinh Rajput, who had recently switched over to BJP, and members of Siddhpur taluka panchayat, nagarpalika and APMC.