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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Surat civic polls: Congress cancels rally after PAAS hints at stopping it

Three has been a face-off between the Congress and Surat unit of the PAAS over ticket distribution for the local body polls due to which three Congress candidates had withdrawn their nominations.

Written by Kamaal Saiyed | Surat |
February 19, 2021 2:19:58 am
Surat civic polls: Congress cancels rally after PAAS hints at stopping itFormer Gujarat Congress president Siddharth Patel addresses a public meeting in Bil area of Vadodara on Thursday. (Express Photo by Bhupendra Rana

The Gujarat Congress Thursday cancelled its only major rally in Surat to be led by state chief Amit Chavda and AICC secretary Biswaranjan Mohanty scheduled for Friday, which is also the last day of campaigning for the local body elections.

Chavda was to take out a vijay sankalp rally with two-wheelers and cars in Varachha, which is a Patidar-dominated area, on Friday afternoon.

While the party cited an emergency meeting in Gandhinagar to be attended by Chavda as the reason to cancel, the decision came after co-convenor of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) from Surat Alpesh Katheriya announced that it will “welcome” the rally, hinting at impeding it.

Three has been a face-off between the Congress and Surat unit of the PAAS over ticket distribution for the local body polls due to which three Congress candidates had withdrawn their nominations.

The PAAS claimed that Congress cancelled the rally because it had announced that it would “welcome the Congress rally” at the Sardar Patel statue near Mangadh Chowk.

That the PAAS might impede the vehicle rally was evident as Katheriya told The Indian Express, “Our surprise programme (for the Congress) would have been more severe than the public meeting of (Union Home Minister ) Amit Shah, at Abrahma area (in 2016). The Congress party has till now not experienced opposition and we will present such a surprising and shocking programme that it will become an example.”

In 2016, at an event to felicitate Shah, who was then national BJP president, the PAAS, then led by Hardik Patel, disrupted the meeting with shouts of ‘Hardik’ and ‘Jay Sardar’ leading to the meeting at Abrahma in Varachha being called off abruptly.

Surat city Congress president Babubhai Rayka told this paper, “The vehicle rally of State Cong-ress president Amit Chavda has been cancelled as he has to attend an emergency meeting in Gandhinagar. The major issues with the PAAS will be sorted out and efforts in this direction are being put by state leaders”.

Chavda, however, will go ahead with the vijay sankalp rally scheduled for Friday in Vadodara at 10 am, with Mohanty and Gujarat in-charge Rajeev Satav.

He was to come to Surat from Vadodara. After the rally details were out, Katheriya put out a message that said “Patidar friends will be present there to welcome you at Sardar Patel statue, Mangadh Chowk, Mini Bazaar area”.

Late Thursday afternoon Congress spoke person Kiran Rayka announced to media persons that the Congress state president vehicle rally in Varachha area had been cancelled due to certain reasons.

According to Katheriya, “We are not having any personal enmity against Amit Chavda but we are unhappy and angry with the state leaderships.

The State congress leaders had not remained on the commitment and names suggested by PAAS has not been put into consideration. Earlier also we have given open challenge to the Congress that if they come to Patidar dominated areas in Varachha, Surat, the PAAS teams will oppose.”

In 2015, the Congress had won 36 of the 116 seats of which 26 were Patidar-dominated wards, mainly on account of the anti-BJP sentiment in the Patidar community on account of the quota agitation. The number rose from the nine Patidar-dominated seats it had won in 2010.

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