Congress tried to disturb Patidars who’re BJP’s strongest supporters: Vijay Rupani | Hindustan Times
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Congress tried to disturb Patidars who’re BJP’s strongest supporters: Vijay Rupani

‘Hardik used to say he would not stop till the reservation demand is met. Has Congress given Patidars reservation? Then why is Hardik joining hands with them?,’ asks Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.

assembly elections Updated: Nov 05, 2017 15:52 IST
Hiral Dave
Chief minister Gujarat Vijay Rupani during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017, in Mumbai.
Chief minister Gujarat Vijay Rupani during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017, in Mumbai.(Bhushan Koyande/HT File Photo)

Vijay Rupani has been chief minister for less than two years but is facing the test of winning Gujarat for the first time since Prime Minister Narendra Modi moved to Delhi. In an exclusive interview to Hiral Dave, the soft-spoken Rupani explains how the BJP plans to address the challenges ahead of the assembly polls in December.

Is this the most challenging election for the BJP in the last two decades?

Every election brings its own challenges. In the elections held after Godhra (the train burning and subsequent riots of 2002), Narendrabhai (Modi) was called every name under the sun. In the next two elections, Patidar leaders in the BJP rebelled (six MLAs left in 2007 and in 2012 former CM Keshubhai Patel launched a new party, Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP)). But we won every election because our intentions are clean. Gujarat’s interest is our priority.

Why has the Patidar community rebelled ahead of every important election since the BJP first came to power in 1995?

The Congress has no issue or agenda. So to take a shortcut, the party has tried to disturb Patidars who are the BJP’s strongest supporters.

Why have all three emerging faces, Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor or Jignesh Mevani, moved close to the Congress?

Hardik is a Congress agent. Alpesh Thakor’s father is a Congress man and Alpesh was also in the Congress. He has now gone back to his old party. Mevani subscribes to communist ideology.

Is the BJP open to any of them?

So far, they have done only what the Congress wanted them to. They have cheated their community. The BJP will check their intentions if they ever express a willingness to join us.

When did you realise Hardik is a “Congress agent”?

We realised it on the very first day. For the 2015 Ahmedabad rally led by Hardik, Anandiben Patel (then CM) extended all support. But instead of ending the matter with the rally, Hardik sat on a dharna and demanded the CM personally visit him and assure him of reservation. That was also a dishonour to the CM post. Now he reportedly had a secret meeting with Rahul (Gandhi) in a hotel and was seen walking out with a bag. This is why the community leaders are now calling it a private agitation and not the Patidar agitation.

Do you think Patidar Aanamt Andolan Samiti’s demand for OBC status is genuine?

This matter is to be decided by the OBC commission. If they approach the commission and the commission recommends (reservation for Patidars), the government is willing to include them in the OBC list.

But there is still some resentment in the Patidar community.

There was some anger in the community two years ago. Now, all their issues have been addressed.

The BJP lost taluka panchayat elections in 2015. How is your preparation now?

Then, we suffered a loss in rural parts, not in cities. But after that, the BJP has won every rural election. We won more than 80% of some 10,000 gram panchayats that went to the polls with Patidar and OBC domination. That shows the communities are no longer with these leaders.

Are you saying that Hardik has lost the community’s support?

Hardik used to say he would not stop till the reservation demand is met. Has Congress given Patidars reservation? Then why is Hardik joining hands with them? As far as EBC reservation is concerned, BJP was the first to offer this. It later ran into legal trouble. Hardik had called our offer a ‘lollipop’. Now, he likes the lollipop offered by Congress.

People are seeing a ‘new’ Rahul Gandhi. What is your opinion?

It is same old Rahul Gandhi and results (of the election) will prove this. His team has been trying to build a new image.

Rahul Gandhi has been raising issues of unemployment, GST and demonetisation. How are you going to tackle them?

He is spreading lies. If you see the figures, Gujarat has remained number 1 job provider since 2001. Gujarat with 9 unemployed youths per 1000 has the lowest rate in the entire country. The issue of GST implementation has been addressed.

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