IT was meant to be a rally to address farmer problems, held on the premises of Vadodara’s Agriculture Produce Market Committee. However, for about 20 minutes on Saturday, before Chief Minister Anandiben Patel arrived, the farmers assembled from five districts for the BJP rally were shown replays of a Zee video of JNU student Umar Khalid, who has been charged with sedition, defending himself in a discussion, as well as a video “confession” of Afzal Guru, who was hanged over the Parliament terror attack.
The Khalid video ran with the caption ‘How dare they (raise) slogan to break India within JNU campus’. Two giant LED screens telecast the videos.
Senior BJP leaders said the decision to play the videos was taken by the state party executive, ahead of the BJP’s planned campaign on “nationalism”. Leaders present at the venue said the videos were “specially arranged in a sequence” to allow the grassroots to “understand” the current situation of “threat to the pride of the country”.
At one point, the video focused on a placard with a picture of Afzal Guru that read, “Ghar Ghar se Afzal niklenge”.
In her own address, Anandiben Patel focused on the efforts of her government to help farmers.
The meeting was also attended by state BJP president Vijay Rupani and party national vice-president Purshottam Rupala.
Speaking on the sidelines, Rupala told mediapersons, “In the coming days, there would be zero tolerance for people refusing to say Bharat Mata ki jai… In the last few days, there has been a surge of sinister people who refuse to say Bharat Mata ki jai and speak of refusing to say the slogan. We have to rein them in.”
A farmer from Chhota Udepur, Arjan Rathwa, complained, “Local leaders specifically asked us to attend this rally (saying) the CM would announce something for us. We came with questions and return with no answers. She has said the same things here that she said at the Kisan Mela held in Chhota Udepur last year.”