Anandiben Survives For Now, Opposition Moves Into Gujarat for 2017 Polls
NEW DELHI: Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel seems whose exit was being projected as imminent, seems to have got a reprieve of sorts after her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She was his personal choice to replace him in the state, and despite the Patidar agitation that earned her considerable flak, she seems to have survived---for the time being at least.
Patidar leader, the young Hardik Patel is still in jail without bail on sedition charges for over eight months. However, the Congress party that was without a support base in the state has made some efforts to consolidate the disaffected Patidar community behind it. It got a fillip a few weeks ago when in a rare interaction with the media in the courts, Hardik Patel declared that the Congress would form the next government in the state.
The inefficacy of the Congress in Gujarat even now was evident from the response to Hardik Patel’s comments by Shankersinh Vaghela who urged him to live up to his responsibility of ensuring a Congress victory. So far the party’s efforts to woo over the influential Patidar community that was largely responsible for the BJP victory in the state, has been limited to statements demanding Hardik Patel’s release. As sources in the state said, the Congress remains invisible on the ground.
In fact three opposition parties with ambitions in Gujarat- Congress, Nationalist Congress party and Aam Aadmi party--- are vying for the jailed leaders attention. All have spoken out at varying intervals against his arrest, with the Congress threatening an agitation for this. The NCP has put former Minister Praful Patel in charge of this aspect in Gujarat, who has met the leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and supported their demand for reservation as well.
Praful Patel said that his party would launch a ‘Jan Jagran’ (public awareness) agitation, but like the Congress that has been talking of similar protests, has not given a date or a schedule. Patel at a Town Hall meeting in Ahmedabad said, “A case of sedition has be slapped on Patidar leaders. This is beyond our comprehension.” And went on to address PM Modi with, “at the same time you (BJP) are hugging Nawaz Sharif and Pakistani leaders who are enemies of our nation. You are harming the interest of the nation”.
Patel spoke on chaste Gujarati, and played on his Gujarati antecedents during his recent visit. It was clear from his speeches that this was in preparation for the forthcoming elections, with the Patidar community being seen by the NCP as a base for its renewed efforts to gain a base in the state.
The NCP leader spoke of a ‘second parivartan’ for Gujarat in the 2017 Assembly elections adding, “We can’t remain silent. We are a big party with presence in each and every district in the state. We need to offer ourselves as a strong third political alternative to the people of Gujarat, besides BJP and Congress.” He made it clear that the NCP was looking on itself as a third alternative, leading to some speculation whether it would be forming a front for Gujarat with AAP.
In fact Praful Patel distanced himself and the party from the Congress with, ““We worked with Congress for 10 years in Delhi and 15 years in Maharashtra but we can’t remain dependent on the Congress. We will strengthen our party on our own.”
The Aam Aadmi Party is also making similar forays in Gujarat. It has just announced that it will contest the elections in the state, and leader Arvind Kejriwal will lead the campaign with a two day visit to the state in July. He had established a base of sorts when he opposed PM Modi directly in Gujarat through a sustained road yatra. His party will work on contrasting the lack of development in Gujarat, and the failure of the BJP to fulfil its promises, unlike that of the AAP government in Delhi.
The opposition thus, that is readying for the state polls next year is NCP that is talking of a ;third front’ though its not clear who it will be in alliance with; the Congress that wants to go it alone at this moment; and the AAP that has established a trajectory of contesting elections on its own, without alliances so far.