People believed to be from the Patidar community seeking job quota in Gujarat threw eggs on the cavalcade of BJP president Amit Shah on Monday night, hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day trip to his home state beginning Tuesday.
Monday night’s incident came on the back of similar attacks on BJP leaders and ministers by activists of the influential Patidar community which had launched a series of agitation demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
The BJP is ruling Gujarat continuously since 1998 but has come under pressure in recent times after the Patidar agitation and also due to growing anger among Dalit communities over alleged atrocities by so-called upper castes.
Sources said Shah’s cavalcade was targeted when he was on his way to the Somnath Temple ahead of Modi’s visit to the famous Hindu shrine on the western coast. Modi is expected to offer prayers in the temple on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister’s two-day trip to Gujarat is seen as the party efforts to revive the BJP’s fortunes in the state which will go to the polls later this year.
The BJP last year replaced chief minister Anandiben Patel with Vijay Rupani, shortly after the state government announced 10% reservation for the poor among upper castes, a move primarily aimed at placating the influential Patidars.
The Patidars – better known by their surname Patel outside the state -- account for about 90-lakh of Gujarat’s six-crore people and wield wide political power. The community’s anger was seen as a major reason for the BJP suffering huge losses in panchayat polls last year.
Following the string of attacks on BJP leaders, the home department is playing extra safe to ensure that no “untoward” incident happens during Modi’s visit.
The department cancelled leaves of all the police personnel from March 3 to 8, specifically mentioning the protests and demonstrations in the state.
Those who were attacked include minister of state for home Pradeepsinh Jadeja when a youth threw a shoe at him in the assembly building.
Earlier, the BJP youth president Rutvij Patel was slapped by a youth during a rally at Mehsana and eggs were thrown at his rally in Surat.
Officials said Modi will begin the tour from Surat where he will arrive at 2.30pm.
He will then take a helicopter to Dahej for inauguration of the OPaL- ONGC Petro Additions Limited, a mega project in the port city of Dahej.
At 5 pm, he will reach Bharuch to open a new bridge on Narmada river and address a public gathering.
Later in the evening, he will have dinner in Gandhinagar to be hosted by governor OP Kohli and CM Vijay Rupani. He will also interact with all BJP MLAs, MPs and party functionaries from Gujarat.
On Wednesday morning, he will leave for Somnath.
“This will be the PM’s first visit to Somnath since he became PM. The last time he visited the temple was back in February 2014, months before winning the Lok Sabha elections. This time he will be offering prayers before the UP poll results are announced and beginning of Gujarat campaign,” said a BJP leader.
He will return to Gandhinagar in the afternoon and address a gathering of around 6,000 women sarpanchs from across the country.
Organised on the International Women’s Day, 10 sarpanchs, who have done exemplary work in Swachh Bharat Mission, especially by making their villages open-defecation free, will be felicitated by the PM.