The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to put up a major show of strength of Patels at a rally in Surat on Thursday in the presence of national party President Amit Shah to honour new Patel ministers in the Vijay Rupani Gujarat government.
Dubbed Rajasvi Sanman Samaroh (royal felicitation ceremony), the event is expected to send the message to agitating Patidar leaders like Hardik Patel that the BJP continues to hold sway over the community.
Besides Amit Shah, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani would attend the programme where all Patel legislators and ministers would be honoured. It has been organised by Patidar Sanman Samiti.
The BJP has been holding a series of meetings and public contact programmes across Surat to make the event a huge success. Sources claimed that the party is looking at mobilising not less than three to four lakh people at the rally.
Several BJP leaders have been stationed in the diamond city of Surat to reach out to Patels in residential societies as well as public places. Some leaders are also holding one-on-one meetings with prominent people of the community.
"It is our tradition that whenever any community member achieves something, he or she is honoured. The Patels, as part of this tradition, have decided to felicitate Patel leaders who have taken over as new state party president (Jitubhai Vaghani) and ministers," Purushottam Rupala, union minister of state for agriculture, said. Rupala is also a Patel.
Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja told reporters that "The function will see presence of lakhs of Patidars and Gujarat will be energised and motivated afresh”. He visited the venue to review the security arrangements in wake of reports that a section of Patels may create ruckus at the event.
Groups of Patels have been disrupting several BJP and government functions since the beginning of their quota stir last year. They even tried to raise slogans in support of their cause as recently as August 30 at public function of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jamnagar, where he had come to inaugurate first phase of a Rs 12,000 crore irrigation project.
The reservation agitation leaders from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) of Hardik Patel and Sardar Patel Group (SPG) have also been holding parallel meetings across the city to ensure the BJP event does not succeed. Even Congress leaders are learnt to be preparing for this.
"We will show our dissent at the event in a Gandhian manner and raise slogans of 'Jai Sardar' to oppose holding of the event," Lalji Patel, chief of SPG said.
Meanwhile, the Surat police has picked up PAAS convenors Varun Patel and Lalit Vasoya in Surat. The two have been speaking openly against the event and alleging that the organisers were holding it under pressure from Amit Shah and the BJP.