Vijay Rupani, who took charge as Chief Minister of Gujarat last year following the sudden exit of Anandiben Patel when the BJP government was rattled by the Patidar agitation and the Dalit uprising after the Una flogging incident, on Friday dared Hardik Patel of the Patidars, Jignesh Mevani of the Dalits and Alpesh Thakore of the OBCs to fight elections to get the true 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.”
He blamed the Congress for the rise of these leaders and remarked that all of Hardik Patel’s tweets were “anti BJP”. “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 asked.
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. He also spoke about his early days in Rangoon, where his father was a rice merchant, among the several Gujaratis who had migrated to Burma.
The Chief Minister took questions on inclusivity, communal harmony, and apprehensions among civil society.
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, noted 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, MD of the Ahmedabad Metrorail project I P Gautam, chairperson ASSOCHAM (Gujarat) Bhagesh Soneji, MD of Vadilal Industries Ltd Rajesh Gandhi, head of the Parsi Panchayat Ahmedabad Jehangir Anklesaria, and the Director of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Arindam Das.
Rupani said he cannot be compared with the Prime Minister, who used to be the 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, he 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.”