Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal sounded the assembly poll bugle late on Friday from a village in Gujarat’s Mehsana district, the heartland of the Patidar quota protests that have rocked the state and hurt the ruling BJP in local body elections.
The Aam Aadmi Party chief chanted slogans of “Jai Patidar, Jai Sardar” to woo the influential community that is increasingly disgruntled with the state government over a demand for other backward class status.
Addressing a public rally at Pilodra village late on Friday night, Kejriwal raised the issue of police firing on protesters in August 2015 in which 13 Patidar youths were killed.
“Whoever ordered the firing should be booked,” said Kejriwal and the crowd responded with “General Dyre…General Dyre” – a reference to the British officer who ordered his forces to fire on unarmed people at Jallianwallah Bagh in 1919.
The community that has held BJP president Amit Shah responsible for giving firing order on protesters has been referring to him as General Dyre.
Soon, a response came from quota agitation leader Hardik Patel in the form of a letter appealing to the Delhi CM to raise his voice from the national capital in favour of the community.
Kejriwal’s 10-minutue speech came after he arrived in Ahmedabad in the evening and left for Mehsana to meet two families who lost sons in the 2015 police firing. The family of Mayur Patel, one of the victims, reportedly told Kejriwal that they received all the help from the Gujarat government.
Earlier at the airport, Kejriwal said that the BJP may try to disrupt his Sunday rally in Surat, which is also going to be held in the Patidar bastion of Varachha.
His three-day trip is focused on wooing Patidars, a key vote bank of the BJP for three decades. On Saturday, he will be offering prayers at Maa Umiya temple in Unjha, the deity of Kadva Patidars, and meet more families in Ahmedabad before leaving for Surat. Kejriwal said that in Surat he would discuss issues of locals and ask them whether AAP should contest the assembly elections in 2017.
With the BJP rejecting Patidar’s OBC quota demand flatly since the beginning of the agitation last year, the disgruntled community members in September had disrupted a public event of Shah in Surat. Shah had to wind up his speech within minutes. Kejriwal’s Sunday rally will be held in the same area.