Vijay Rupani, who took charge as Chief Minister of Gujarat last year as the Patidar agitation and a Dalit uprising in the aftermath of the Una flogging rocked the state, on Friday dared Hardik Patel of the Patidars, Jignesh Mevani of the Dalits and Alpesh Thakore of the OBCs to contest elections to get the real measure of their popularity.
To a question on how he viewed the emergence of Hardik, Alpesh and Jignesh, the Chief Minister, who was the guest at the Express Adda in Ahmedabad, said, “Are they going to form a political party and fight elections? Only when they do, if they do, will it be clear whose popularity is how much.”
Rupani accused the Congress of facilitating the rise of these three leaders, pointing out that Hardik had been consistently “anti BJP” on Twitter. “Till today, all of Hardik’s tweets are against the BJP. None against the Congress. Why? Is everything all right with the Congress?” the Chief Minister
Rupani spoke of his days spent in prisons in Bhavnagar and Bhuj during the Emergency. As a 19-year-old then, he would learn Russian, and read the writings of Svetlana, Josef Stalin’s daughter, he said. “One learnt of the value of liberty only in jail,” Rupani said.
The Chief Minister also spoke about his early days in Rangoon, where his father was a rice merchant, one among the several Gujaratis who had migrated to Burma.
Among the range of questions the Chief Minister took were those on issues of contemporary relevance, including inclusiveness, communal harmony, and the apprehensions among civil society that the space for public dissent was shrinking in Gujarat.
The event was attended by the who’s who of Ahmedabad, including economist Y K Alagh, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, Additional Advocate General Prakash Jani, historian and chairman of Gujarat Sahitya Akademi Vishnu Pandya, former judge Jyotsana Yagnik, chairperson of Gujarat State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Jagruti Pandya, academics Rita Kothari and Sanjay Bhave, MD of the Ahmedabad Metrorail project I P Gautam, chairperson ASSOCHAM (Gujarat) Bhagesh Soneji, MD of Vadilal Industries Ltd Rajesh Gandhi, cardiac surgeon Dr Dhiren Shah, cancer specialist Dr Kaustubh Patel, head of the Parsi Panchayat Ahmedabad Jehangir Anklesaria, and Director of National Institute of Fashion Technology, Arindam Das.
Rupani said he cannot be compared with the Prime Minister who, too, was Chief Minister of Gujarat. “You cannot hold out a lamp to the sun,” he said. “He (Narendra Modi) has charted a path of development (for Gujarat and India) and I am certainly capable of walking on that path,” Rupani said.
The BJP would win 150+ seats in the Assembly elections, the Chief Minister said, and spoke on the ongoing ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe (Vikas has gone crazy)’ social media campaign, which pokes fun at the development plank of the BJP nationally.
“Narendrabhai has started this politics of development… We are happy that Congress is coming to the development issue… And we have given the slogan ‘Hu Gujarat Chhu, Hoon j Vikas Chhu. (I am Gujarat, I am development.)’,” Rupani said, adding, “Vikas has not gone mad, the people (Congress) doing all this have been driven crazy by our (BJP’s) development.”