Surat : The first Vijay Rupani-led BJP government’s show of strength against the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) came a cropper here on Thursday following bedlam at the public meeting, compelling national BJP president Amit Shah to cut short his speech and the police to resort to lathi charge and teargas to quell violence.
Despite massive deployment of police, PAAS supporters mingled with the crowd that was marshaled by the ruling establishment into the venue, where legislators of the Patel community were to be felicitated by Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
Belying the organisers’ claim that over one lakh members of the Patel community would attend the function, the attendance turned out to be much less, as over 500 supporters of PAAS, led by BJP dissident MLA Nalin Kotadia, prevented people from coming to the venue.
At the venue, PAAS supporters started raising slogans like “Jai Sardar and Jai Patidar;” they began to hurl chairs as soon as Shah and Rupani came on the stage. Both the BJP leaders cut short their speeches as a result of the ruckus created by the PAAS.
A life-size cutout of Shah, put up outside the venue, was ‘beheaded’ by the activists. The police took into custody over 100 supporters of PAAS, including their district conveners. The outfit’s office bearers all over the state have been placed under ‘unofficial’ house arrest as video clips circulated by supporters to the media showed. Yet it did not prevent Patel supporters at the event from keeping up a steady chant of ’Hardik-Hardik’.
The felicitation of Patel community legislators was organized by some local businessmen but was for all practical purposes the brainchild of the BJP national chief Amit Shah.
The PAAS protesters also damaged a couple of state transport buses which were later withdrawn and diverted to other routes.
The Surat district collector ordered the jamming of mobile Internet service in and around the city as a precautionary measure to prevent rumours from spreading through social media. This, however, did not prevent hordes of people lined up on terraces from shouting ’jai sardar jai patidar’ when BJP legislators and ministers left the venue.