Hardik Patel has tweeted photos to show the kind of crowd he mobilised at a public rally today in Morbi, about 30 km away from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was campaigning in the same district in the heart of Gujarat's Saurashtra for next month's assembly elections.
- Hardik Patel tweeted photos to show the kind of crowd he got
- Morbi is seen as an influencer for surrounding areas
- It also has a significant Patel population
"This crowd of thousands at a public meeting to discuss reservation and farmers' issues in Morbi district is encouraging," tweeted the 24-year-old, who led the massive Patel agitation for reservation against PM Modi's party, the BJP.
Hardik Patel strategically timed his Morbi tour to coincide with the Prime Minister's rally. A comparison of the audiences the two rallies drew was expected after reports of a sub-par turnout for the Prime Minister's public meetings in Saurashtra on Monday.
Morbi, a town famous for ceramic tiles and seen as an influencer for surrounding areas, has voted for the BJP for two decades. But it also has a significant Patel population and was one of the epicentres of the community's agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges in 2015.
Hardik Patel, who was jailed for sedition during the agitation and was exiled on court orders from Gujarat for six months, is too young to contest elections. But he has vowed to ensure the BJP's defeat, accusing the party of betraying the Patels, loyal to it for years, by not including them among castes that benefit from affirmative action. He is asking his community to vote for the Congress in the assembly elections after assessing as satisfactory, the party's formula for reservation for Patels if it comes to power.
PM Modi told a capacity crowd today that "in good times and bad, we have stood with Morbi," which he said was not true of the Congress. Morbi, he said, was typical of the Gujarat model that he is credited with developing when he was the state's Chief Minister. Indira Gandhi of the Congress, the PM said, "held a handkerchief to her nose against a foul smell when she came to Morbi."
Morbi district has three of Gujarat's 182 assembly seats. In 2012, when then Chief Minister Modi led his party to yet another victory in Gujarat, the BJP had won two seats in Morbi and the Congress one. But in panchayat or rural body elections held in 2015, the Congress won most seats in worry for the BJP.
Morbi is filled with small traders who have traditionally not just voted for the BJP, but have also funded the party. Congress vice president Rahul Ganhdi has been urging the traders to punish the BJP for a chaotic roll-out of new national tax GST, which he has alleged has brought small businesses to their knees.
Rahul Gandhi too is in Saurashtra today and will address three rallies. PM Modi is addressing three in Saurashtra and one in south Gujarat.