Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has chosen Mehsana, the epicentre of the Patidar quota agitation that rocked the BJP government, to kick-start his party’s campaign with just a year to go before Gujarat holds its assembly elections.
Gandhi will address a public rally in Mehsana on Wednesday, a week before over 1,000 gram panchayats go to elections.
Here are five things expected from Gandhi’s Wednesday rally:
1. The Patidar hub in north Gujarat saw the community, a key vote bank for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, launch an agitation last year for reservation benefits in college admissions and government jobs. As a result, the BJP lost its hold in the countryside in local body elections held in November 2015.
2. Though Gandhi will be speaking in the hotbed of the Patel agitation, he is likely to skip the quota issue in his address and focus mostly on demonetisation and farmers’ problems. The assessment within the Congress is that the note ban will hit the BJP hard as the people continue to face “severe hardships” due to the cash crunch, more than a month after Modi announced the decision on November 8.
3. Gandhi’s rally comes a fortnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a farmers’ gathering in the same district, where he accused the Opposition of not allowing him to speak in Parliament over demonetisation.
4. Mehsana is Modi’s home district. It is also the economic hub of north Gujarat, where Congress has a stronghold. While one-fourth of its MLAs belong to the region, it wrested five districts and 27 taluka panchayats from the BJP in the November 2015 elections held in the backdrop of Patidar agitation.
5. The rally is being seen as the beginning of the Congress’ mobilisation for the assembly elections scheduled for December 2017.