Mehsana, the district that saw maximum impact of the Patidar agitation for quota a year ago, has now been chosen for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s farmers rally on December 21, a week ahead of the gram panchayat elections. Congress leaders are expecting a good turnout of people from the north Gujarat region, where the party had won five district panchayats and 27 taluka panchayats in the local body election held a year ago. Congress had wrested all these panchayat bodies from BJP. Besides, one-fourth of the party’s MLAs or 15 to be exact, hail from six districts of the region.
Party leaders feel that they can politically cash in on the resentment among the Patidars against BJP and its leaders who, according to the Patidar leaders, have not stood with them in their agitation for seeking reservation in government jobs and admission in higher educational and professional courses.
In a way, the rally is likely to become a test of strength for the party, especially at a time when the assembly elections are just a year ahead and leaders of all the major political parties have begun mobilisation programmes in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a farmers’ rally at Deesa, just 100 km from Mehsana, Saturday last.
Party spokesperson Manish Doshi said that farmers in the north Gujarat region have suffered the most since the NDA came to power at the Centre two and a half years ago. Congress wants to highlight plight of the farmers by inviting Rahul to address them in Mehsana. Doshi said that export of cotton and tomatoes grown in the region has been hit badly due to “wrong policies of the central government”.
Rahul was to earlier launch a yatra for the rights of tribals that was taken out by the party from temple town of Ambaji two months ago. But that did not happen. “Now, Mehsana located at the centre of the state is the most suitable place for Rahulji to address the farmers and rural folks who have suffered the most due to wrong agriculture policies of the Modi government and also demonetisation,” said Doshi. Mehsana is the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former chief minister Anandiben Patel and currently Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel.
Banaskantha district Congress president Zakir Chauhan said that as the party won the district panchayat polls in Patan, Mehsana, Gandhinagar, Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts a year ago, it indicated that the rural population was in favour of the party. Congress had also won Banaskantha district panchayat, but lost to BJP due to a couple of elected members crossing over to BJP.
State party president Bharatsinh Solanki and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Shankersinh Vaghela held a meeting of the office-bearers of the six north Gujarat districts on Wednesday to plan how to mobilise people for the rally.