GUJARAT is said to be the first laboratory of Hindutava in India. The 2002 state sponsored Muslim pogrom was its first test. I have seen myself signboards placed at the entrances of villages mentioning them as a "Prant of Hindu Rashtra" during those riots. Now in 2016, Dalits are on streets demanding their security and self pride after some of them were attacked merely because they were skinning a dead cow. Does India need such a Hindu Rashtra where Dalits and minorities are either killed or distressed?
The BJP-ruled Gujarat had already been providing fodder to Mayawati. It is witnessing widespread protests following beating up of seven Dalit youths for skinning a dead cow on July 11 at Una of Gir Somnath district. About two dozen members of the Dalit community attempted suicide in Saurashtra as a form of protest. It has made Gujarat chief minister Aanandiben Patel’s position untenable who is already being blamed for mishandling Hardik Patel’s agitation for quota to Patidars.Trouble might grow for Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, whose government is facing another controversy over four Dalit men being beaten up on suspicion of cow slaughter. Subsequent protest took violent turn in claiming life of a policeman and igniting fresh worries within the BJP about its political fallout in next year November-December election.The BJP leadership has been discussing pros and cons of replacing Patel ahead of the crucial assembly polls, and the latest round of protest will provide more ammunition to her detractors in the BJP – both in Gandhinagar and Delhi.
Patel’s latest worries follows last year's protest from the Patidar community over reservation demand and the arrest of its leader Hardik Patel. The agitation from the dominant community had cost the BJP in local bodies’ election, wherein it suffered a jolt in the rural areas for the first time in one decade.
Between 2010 and 2015, the BJP’s vote share declined by about 10 % in district panchayat polls and slid from 48.51 % to 42.32% in election for Taluka panchayats. BJP’s vote share also declined by about 3 per cent in election for 56 municipalities and a little over 1 % in polls for six municipal corporations.
Patel has problem at two fronts. The electoral reverses and administrative lapses reflect the lack of her grip over administration, in sharp contrast to Modi’s 12 year rule. Also, it emboldens her rivals in the party, who are asking for her exit ahead of the December 2017 assembly election.
Modi chose Patel over his trusted aide Amit Shah, now BJP chief, to succeed him in Gujarat. The 74-year-old woman leader has since struggled to step into the big shoes of Modi. She turns 75 this November and Delhi’s power corridor is abuzz with reports of her power tussle with Shah, who apparently wants a leadership change in Ahmedabad.
Patel has in different interviews denied any trust deficit with Shah. The BJP chief, too, on many occasions denied having any ambition to return to Gujarat. “I have moved on. I don’t look back,” he had told a select group of reporters recently.
The chief minister’s office in Gandhinagar and her media managers in Delhi have been circulating the list of actions – such as the arrest of accused, compensation to victims and others – which Patel has taken to deal with the situation. Patel’s loyalists blame a section within the party for creating ‘wrong perception’ about her in Delhi. Here, BJP leaders fear that she may have to deal with more challenges in immediate future than the Dalit protest.
The release of Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel from Surat Jail on July 15, BJP sources said, might lead to revival of the reservation demand by the dominant community. “The demand is not legally tenable. To deal with any revival of reservation demand will be a big challenge for Patel,” a BJP functionary in Delhi said. A source said Amit Shah had met a few senior functionaries of the party on the eve of Hardik’s release to take stock of the situation.
Winning Gujarat next year is crucial for Prime Minister Modi. Not only has he held the state for 12 continuous years, but Gujarat has been under uninterrupted BJP rule since March 1998. Gujarat is home state to both Modi and Shah is often described as the stronghold of the Rashtriya Swayamseva Sangh and its affiliates.
“We cannot afford to lose Gujarat. That will have a psychological bearing on the BJP and its cadre. Modi is well aware of the situation and the final decision of Patel’s fate will be taken by him,” a BJP leader said.
Black spot on Gujarat: Ahmed Patel
Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel issued a statement on recent Dalit atrocity in Samadhiyala village near Una and appealed the people of Gujarat to maintain peace and harmony.
“The recent atrocities on Dalits is a black spot on Gujarat. In the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, such events bring us nothing but shame. I condemn this incident in no uncertain words. I also appeal to the people of Gujarat to maintain peace and harmony. Violence is never a solution,” Ahmed Patel said in a statement.
Condemning the Gujarat government, Ahmed Patel said, “Given the track record of the Gujarat government in upholding the dignity of the marginalized we have no hope of a fair and objective probe by local authorities. Hence the need of the hour is an independent court monitored investigation to give justice to our Dalit brothers and sisters.”
“Such atrocities make the BJP’s celebration of Babasaheb’s 125th Birth Anniversary hollow and self contradicting. We wish to ask the BJP is this the Gujarat Model which was so well advertised before the nation in order to form the government,” he concluded his statement with this.
[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is Editor of Ahmedabad based Gujarat Siysat.]