"Practice Democracy In Your Own Home," PM Modi Tells Congress: 10 Points
As PM Narendra Modi addresses crowds in Bharuch, Hardik Patel, the 24-year-old Patidar leader who is urging his community - traditional supporters of the BJP - to vote the party out of power, will be prepping for a mega rally this evening around 70 kms away in Surat.
Gujarat Election 2017: PM Modi will today first address a rally in Bharuch in south Gujarat (File)
Gandhinagar: Boosted by the BJP victory in the civic polls in Uttar Pradesh and the upturn in the nation's economic growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today suggested a repeat in assembly polls in Gujarat where his party, the BJP, has ruled for 22 straight years. "We saw what happened there in the local elections. Congress was wiped out. UP knows the Congress well and so does Gujarat," PM Modi said at a rally in Bharuch. The BJP had won 28 of South Gujarat's 35 seats in 2012. The Congress, which won six, is hoping to make major gains in the area after it came to an understanding with Hardik Patel, the face of Patidar agitation.
Here are the latest developments:
Attacking the Congress at his rally in Surendranagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "If you don't have democracy at your own home (party), how can you practise it in the country?" The reference was to the coming Congress internal polls, in which Rahul Gandhi is expected to take over the party's reins from his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi.
PM Modi also referred to Shehzad Poonawalla, the Congress leader who alleged rigging in the organisational elections and said, "you have done a brave thing".
In Bharuch, where the BJP has four of the five seats, the Prime Minister spoke of development. "Bharuch along with Kutch are areas "with significant Muslim populations," he said. "If you see the districts which developed rapidly under the BJP tenure in Gujarat, the names of these two districts figure prominently," he added.
Tomorrow, PM Modi is scheduled to address rallies at Dharampur in Valsad, followed by Bhavnagar and Junagadh, and then Jamnagar in Saurashtra. The seven rallies have been pitched by the ruling BJP as "Vikas Rallies". Eighty-nine seats of south Gujarat and Saurashtra vote in the first phase of the assembly polls on Saturday.
The BJP won 28 of the 35 seats in South Gujarat in 2012. But the party is seen as worried over the challenge posed by the Patidar community, traditional BJP voters who have turned against the state government. The vast Saurashtra region has large sections of the Patidars who have been demanding quota in jobs and education.
The leader of Patidar agitation, 24-year-old Hardik Patel, has vowed to make the ruling party pay for refusing to support their demand. He is asking the community to support the Congress, which has promised quota to Patidars under the Other Backward Classes reservation if it comes to power.
Today, as the PM addressed crowds in Bharuch, Hardik Patel launched a massive roadshow in Surat, just 70 km away, where he launched a massive agitation two years ago. "The BJP will be wiped out," Mr Patel told NDTV.
Surat, Gujarat's commercial capital and its second largest city, is politically high-profile. In 2012, BJP won 15 of Surat's 16 seats, one went to Congress. In December 2015 -- a few months after Hardik Patel started his quota agitation -- the Congress more than doubled its seats in the civic elections, although the BJP won the corporation.
Privately, some leaders of the BJP have expressed concern about the impact of the notes ban and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax on small traders who comprise a huge section of the population. In his rallies, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has criticized both in scathing terms.
Surat's large non-Gujarati population, mainly textile traders and workers from UP, Bihar and Rajasthan who control the power-loom industry, are also seen as being divided over supporting the ruling party. The migrants comprise nearly 26% of Surat's 44.26 lakh population.