RAJKOT: Rajkot was to be the stage for cementing a new political alliance between the young Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Hardik Patel and the Congress. Instead, Monday saw Rajkot bathed in familiar saffron as Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani filed his nomination papers amidst much fanfare.
The key Congress-PAAS alliance looked shaky, their fight over ticket distribution out in the open; and Rupani looked rather comfortable. In the company of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, he was already calling it a ‘vijay muhurat’ (auspicious moment of victory) as he took a dig at the
Grand Old Party’s ‘outsourced’ politics.
However, the political ‘outsourcing’ — which could have been the icing on the cake for Rahul Gandhi, who is about to take over as Congress president — did not quite happen. Hardik Patel was in hiding, apparently to expose PAAS covener Dinesh Bhambaniya’s duplicity. Bhambaniya is said to have
instigated a Patidar clash with Congress workers late Sunday night, for not finding his name or and that of Alpesh Katharia, another PAAS leader, on the GOP’s candidate list.
In the fast-paced sequence of events over 24 hours, no one was left who still doubted that PAAS leaders were doing regular politics using the Patidar quota agitation. So the BJP and Rupani breathed easy. This was quite apparent from Amit Shah’s caustic remark later in the day: “Some people take time to read an election, they need to wait for ticket distribution, campaigning and counting to be over. I knew six months ago which way it will go.’’ In other words, he was certain that the youthful challenge to the 22-year-old BJP rule had fizzled out.
In Rajkot, a visibly upbeat Rupani, dressed in a bright saffron jacket and the party’s lotus-embossed saffron scarf, played ‘son of the soil’ to the hilt. Jaitley added to the build-up by telling the gathering of the loyal, “Please remember, you’ve now a son of Gujarat helming the country and a son
of Rajkot at the helm of Gujarat.’’
The election thus contextualized, Jaitley went on to demolish the opposition to BJP by calling it a choice between “stability and anarchy’’. Those who had watched the televised ransacking of the Congress offices in Surat did not need more proof. The scenes of the previous night helped reinforce the imagery of chaos.
Rupani added to the script with his words. “We will have to ensure that our pride is not hurt," he said. "Development has to be stabilised. The Congress did injustice to Gujarat for 10 years during UPA rule, but a son of Gujarat is now in Delhi, ready to give a lot to the state.’’
The BJP is already projecting a handsome win, in the range of 150-plus seats. The murmurs within the Congress -- that the party may have goofed up by betting too much on the three young activists, Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor (now in the Congress) and Jignesh Mewani — may have reached the rival camp.