Rahul to begin Congress campaign in Gujarat from Patidar agitation hotbed | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Rahul to begin Congress campaign in Gujarat from Patidar agitation hotbed

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.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2016 13:09 IST
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.(PTI photo)

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. His 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.

Read: Modi speaks on note ban in Gujarat, Oppn says he’s ‘factually wrong’

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.

Months later, the party had to replace chief minister Anandiben Patel with Vijay Rupani.

The Congress leaders have said the focus of Gandhi’s rally will remain on demonetisation.

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.

Congress managers are of the view that Modi and the BJP will not only face the “wrath” of the people in poll-bound states but other parts of the country as well, evident from the long and seemingly unending queues outside banks and ATMs.

“The demonetisation drive has hit the poor very hard. Rahul Gandhi will be in Mehsana to address the plight of the common man who has been struggling to cope up with the sudden cash crunch,” Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Bharatsinh Solanki said.

North Gujarat, where Modi’s hometown Vadnagar is situated, is a stronghold of the Congress. 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.

The Congress rally is also being seen as the beginning of the mobilisation by the party amid speculations of early elections in Gujarat.

Also read: ‘Jai Patidar, Jai Sardar’: Kejriwal sounds 2017 poll bugle at Gujarat rally

With the BJP engaged in heavy political activities including visits by Modi every month, BJP chief Amit Shah’s frequent meetings with important functionaries and the RSS’ recent four-day meet, have given rise to these speculations that the BJP would go for an early election.

The assembly elections are scheduled to be held in December next year.