NEW DELHI: In a dramatic twist to the Patidar agitation taking place in Gujarat, Patidar Samiti leaders Rahul Desai and Lalbhai Patel lashed out strongly against the politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In a strong statement, Desai opined that “the BJP is fundamentally a communal party that has been planting its ideology of Muslim hatred for years now. I can tell you with certainty that Modi would never have been re-elected as the chief minister in 2002 if it had not been for the Godhra train burning.”

59 commuters were killed in a fire in the Sabarmati Express in 2002, many of whom were Hindu karsevaks. Later, 31 Muslims were convicted for their role in this heart-wrenching episode. But quite unfortunately, the Godhra incident was followed by vehement communal riots in Gujarat which led to the dead of 2000 Muslims. Desai, who was in school at that time, stated that he was shown videos of how the train was set on fire.

“They were doing it to propagate the idea that all Hindus need to come together or else the Muslims would kill us,” said Desai. “I don’t know if the men who burnt the train were Muslims or not, but I know that the Godhra train burning was a pre-planned political stunt by the BJP to win the state election later that year.”

The political scenario has changed now but Desai still feels cheated. “Because of the BJP’s propaganda, all of us began to think communally, and I feel kind of cheated now,” he said. “Even today, people are afraid that Muslims will riot against them, but honestly, even if they don’t, the BJP will get it done.” Desai also stated that most of the members of the Patidar Andolan Samiti do validate his views.

“Of course, Godhra and the 2002 riots were orchestrated by the BJP. It is obvious to us now, but back then it wasn’t,” said Lalbhai Patel. He strongly feels that now BJP is allowing for the persecution of Patels in Gujarat by not endowing them any form of support. He also stated that this kind of politics leads to the creation of Naxals.

Currently, the Patidar community, which had helped BJP to be victorious, are now in no mood to support the party in the state Assembly election of next year. Patel and Desai also stated that in spite of accepting help for Congress, they would not bend towards it also in the upcoming election.

“We will vote for whoever gives in to our demands – both reservations and justice for the police atrocities,” said Lalbhai Patel. “The Patidars are already now building connections with OBC Thakors and Muslims so you never know – even a third front might come up.”

As Patels had decided to teach BJP a lesson, Congress did take advantage of the stir which was created and they performed well in the local polls which were held in November. The large scale agitation started by the Patel community has led to widespread chaos and the arrest of Hardik Patel on the grounds of sedition.

Congress meanwhile has promised that it would give reservation to Patels and other upper castes under the EBC (Economically Backward Class) category but Lalji counter-argued that it would not help in empowering the Patel community. So, the main question today is whether Gujarat is slowly getting ready for a third front which would fight against the hegemony of Congress and BJP in Gujarat?

(The writer is a doctoral student at JNU, New Delhi)