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After Punjab, Kejriwal Sets Sights on Amit Shah's Gujarat

Half an hour or so after Arvind Kejriwal's flight from Delhi touched down at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad on October 14, 2016, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo was in a car, speeding straight to Mehsana.

Rupashree Nanda | CNN-News18

Updated:February 7, 2017, 11:03 AM IST
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After Punjab, Kejriwal Sets Sights on Amit Shah's Gujarat
File photo of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing a public rally.
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New Delhi: Half an hour or so after Arvind Kejriwal's flight from Delhi touched down at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad on October 14, 2016, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo was in a car, speeding straight to Mehsana.

The 75-km ride was not just another trip for the Delhi chief minister. It marked the beginning of the next big battle that he has taken upon himself: To conquer Gujarat, and take on the Amit Shah-Narendra Modi duo in their home turf.

Late in the night, after visiting the homes of Nihsat, Mahesh and Mayur – victims of police crackdown in the peak of Patidar protests in mid 2015 – Kejriwal spoke in Pilodara, the ground zero of the Patidar agitation.

Dwelling at length on the police firing, Kejriwal said: "Jis ne bhi firing ka adesh diya, chahe who magistrate ho – lekin main nahi samajhta Magistrate diya hai – upar koi neta baitha hai, sablog jaante hain ki kaun hai woh (Whoever has ordered this firing, and I don't believe it was any magistrate, everyone knows who is the leader sitting on top who ordered this…)"

The crowd went ballistic with cries of "General Dyer, General Dyer", referring to the British police officer responsible for the Jalianwala Bagh incident.

Kejriwal promised justice to all, and vowed to send the said "General Dyer" to jail.

At the rally, Kejriwal also announced the journey of AAP in Gujarat from Pilodara: "The Patidar agitation started from this village. We are beginning a new movement to clean up Gujarat's politics from this same village."

Two days later, Kejriwal would visit Surat and speak out in support of Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patidar movement who was charged with sedition. He again referred to "General Dyer" saying Hardik is a true nationalist while it is the "General" who should be sent to jail for working against the nation.

Kejriwal also stressed on the Una Dalit atrocity, which had sparked protests across the country. Young Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani, who was earlier with AAP but had resigned, found mention in Kejriwal's address, when he congratulated him for organizing the Dalit community.

Pointing to deaths due to adulterated liquor, Kejriwal mocked the liquor ban in Gujarat accusing both BJP and Congress leaders of profiting from alcohol smuggling business. Alpesh Thakur, the man spearheading the agitation against liquor ban, also found mention in Kejriwal speech.

The leitmotif in Kejriwal's address was this: The BJP government in Gujarat is throwing a challenge to the people of Gujarat, that if you raise your voice against the Government, you will not be spared.

Looking at the 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat, Kejriwal said: The next Gujarat polls would not just be an election. It will be a revolution with Amit Shah on one side and the people of Gujarat on the other.

The stage was set for Kejriwal to announce that AAP would contest the 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat.

Kejriwal's October odyssey was his fourth to Gujarat in one year. Fully aware of the political implications of a foothold in PM Modi's bastion and Hinduvta's laboratory, Kejriwal has kept an eagle's eye on the party's progress. Kumar Vishwas, member of AAP’s Political Affairs Committee who calls himself an 'ultra nationalist', will be given the responsibility of chipping away at the BJP's core appeal of 'Hindu nationalism'.

Kumar Vishwas had earlier accompanied Kejriwal in his visit to famous Somnath temple in July 2016. "A person like me who does not hide his nationalism suits the climate in Gujarat," he had said.

Delhi labour minister Gopal Rai has been deputed to strengthen the organisation in PM Modi's bastion and set in motion the 'AAP Azadi Andolan' across 182 constituencies in January, even as AAP was in the thick of critical battles in Punjab and Goa.

Delhi MLA Gulab Singh, co-in charge of Gujarat affairs, who was arrested ahead of Kejriwal's Surat rally, is the bridge between the state unit and Delhi. Culture and tourism minister Kapil Mishra who is not afraid of flaunting his 'Hinduvta' credentials is another key person.

Remember, he is the AAP leader who had embarrassed Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in an open function in Delhi when he asked her whether or not she thought Burhan Wani was a terrorist.

AAP is already in a campaign and construction mode in Gujarat. With three time BJP MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria joining the party, the party has a strong local face. AAP hopes to be the receptacle where all movements, big and small, will connect and fill the political vacuum created by a diffident Congress.

The party will also focus on issues concerning the common man: like electricity tariffs and MSP for farmers.

In the discontent of Patidars, Dalits, Muslims and farmers, AAP hopes for a ride in Gujarat. Indeed, in 2017, Kejriwal will be seen and heard more and more in Gujarat, prowling PM Modi's den.

(Get detailed and live results of each and every seat of the state Assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram to know which candidate/party is leading or trailing and to know who has won and who has lost and by what margin. Our one-of-its-kind Election Analytics Centre lets you put on the psephologist's hat. Know interesting facts and trivia about the elections. Elections = News18)
| Edited by: Sujit Nath
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