Setting the tone of his party’s campaign for the 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat, AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed a rally at a Patidar dominated locality in Surat on Sunday, reaching out to three emerging youth leaders in the state — Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore, representing Patidar, Dalit and OBC communities, respectively.
Kejriwal targeted both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, calling the two “husband and wife”, but he was most severe on BJP national president Amit Shah who, he said, was calling the shots in the state government.
Addressing an impressive gathering at Yogi Chowk in Varachha area, he raised a range of issues concerning the state from the Patidar quota agitation to Una flogging incident to higher power tariffs, and listed “achievements” of his AAP government in Delhi.
The AAP leader also alleged that the state BJP government deliberately tried to block the public meeting and granted permission only after the intervention of the Gujarat High Court.
Strongly backing Hardik Patel and criticising police firing on the Patidars last year after the quota agitation turned violent, Kejriwal said, “In Gujarat, the BJP government will crush those who raise their heads against it. Patidar leader Hardik Patel had started the agitation for rights to his community, but the state government killed innocent Patidar youths. The Patidars are not terrorists, they are citizens of the country; their family members have only one demand and they demanded justice…They told me that a political leader had given orders to shoot.” The Delhi CM, however, did not name the BJP leader who according to him had ordered the firing.
“I want to ask why the government has levelled sedition charges against Hardik Patel? Hardik Patel is a desh bhakt (patriot) and General Dyer (the person who ordered police firing) is a desh drohi (traitor),” he said.
Referring to the Una episode involving public flogging of four Dalits for skinning a dead cow, Kejriwal lauded efforts of Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani in uniting members of the community.
Kejriwal also targeted the BJP government over “rampant bootlegging” in the state despite a prohibition law in place. “In Gujarat, there is a prohibition law, still hooch tragedy in Surat claimed over 20 lives. I talked to Alpesh Thakore, and he told me that he had given a list of bootleggers to the government, but no action was taken… Alpesh is taking out a rally in Ahmedabad on November 6 against bootlegging… His work is commendable,” he said.
He then went on to target BJP leadership, especially Amit Shah. “Amit Shah is ruling Gujarat. He was having differences with Anandiben Patel, and finally she was removed and replaced by his close aide Vijay Rupani… This shows Amit Shah’s attitude that those who raise voice against him, their voice will be crushed.”
The AAP leader further said, “BJP and Congress are husband and wife. To disrupt my Gujarat tour, BJP sent its protesters to even Umiya Mata temple (in Unjha)… If Rahul Gandhi visits the state, BJP plans no protest against him. They have arrested our 14 MLAs in Delhi (15 with the arrest of Gulab Singh on Sunday), but they are not arresting Congress MLAs and Robert Vadra. They have a close relationship with each other.”
Kejriwal compared the power tariff in Delhi with that in Gujarat. “In Delhi, if a consumer uses 200 units, he/she has to pay Rs 462, but in Gujarat for 200 units, a consumer has to pay Rs 964. In Delhi, if 400 units are consumed, the subscriber has to pay Rs 1,150, while in Gujarat, the bill for 400 units is Rs 2,100. The power tariff in Gujarat is twice the Delhi rates. We have started mohalla clinics at different places… medicines are given free.”
He also mentioned other welfare works done by his government in Delhi like not raising school fees, compensation to farmers in case of crop failure and Rs 1 crore compensation to the family members of martyrs.
During Kejriwal’s programme, over 20 people, including former co-convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti Nikhil Sawani, were detained when they were found waving black flags opposing Kejriwal’s public meeting. Some women also protested against Kejriwal at Surat Circuit House by breaking earthen pots.
Meanwhile, Gujarat BJP has reacted strongly to Kejriwal’s comments.
Condemning Kejriwal for making “baseless’ and “irresponsible” accusations against Amit Shah and the Gujarat government, state BJP president Jitu Vaghani termed the AAP’s Surat rally a “flop”. In a press statement, he said, “Instead of doing good for those people who have elected him, a person is making futile efforts with political interest.”