As the state assembly elections – scheduled to be held in November – approach, political parties have intensified their campaigning in the state.
Days after Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s promise – to waive the farm loans within 10 days if and when Congress forms a government in the state – during Mandsaur rally, Patidar (Patel) leader from Gujarat, Hardik Patel, is ready to begin a month-longyatrain the state. Patel’s rally can turn out to be another blow for the BJP after the Congress president’s propitious poll promises.
“I will start the yatranext month from Amarkantak, the place from where the Narmada River originates. This month-long journey, in two phases, will pass through nearly 100 Assembly seats of the Bundelkhand, Mahakaushal and Malwa-Nimad regions of Madhya Pradesh,” Patel said at a media interaction in Indore on Sunday.
However, he has not announced the dates and schedule of his yatrayet.
After Patel’s strong ant-BJP stance in Gujarat elections, Madhya Pradesh BJP is on alert.
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The government had recently denied permission to Patel to hold a public rally in Jabalpur district, citing farmers’ protest as a reason; his rally may add fuel to the fire, they feared. When Patel decided to knock on the High Court’s door against this decision, Jabalpur district administration granted the permission, although with a slew of restrictions.
Since Thursday, he has been on a five-day visit under his banner of Kisan Kranti Sena. “We want to make the youth and farmers aware during this tour. We will not talk about parties or their candidates. But we will appeal to the voters to scrutinise the work of the sitting MLAs of their areas,” he further said.
On the first anniversary of Mandsaur firing (June 6, 2017), where six farmers were killed in an alleged police firing, Gandhi had held a rally. During his address, Gandhi attacked the state government for the number of farmers’ suicides in the state which is more than 19,000 in last 16 years.
However, a day after this rally, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a slew of sops for the farmers to, and also asked party leaders to expose Rahul Gandhi’s false claim.
The state has approximately six million plus Patidar voters; a bulk of them in the Malwa region. The presence of a Patel has provoked many questions in the political circles. If the 25-year-old leader succeeds in repeating his Gujarat victory, it may help the Congress woo Madhya Pradesh’s Patidar community, which has traditionally supported and voted for the BJP.
Many believe that the turning point in Patidars’ relationship with the ruling BJP was the 2017 farmers’ protest in Mandsaur as four of the six killed in police action were from the Patidar community.
Patels in MP, belonging to the “Kurmi” caste, are a part of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and can be a determining factor in 30 of the 230 assembly seats.
Excited about Patel’s yatra, a senior Congress leader said, “The Patel vote bank is a sizeable one in districts such as Mandsaur, Ratlam and Indore, and anyone calling for scrutiny of the ruling government will help.”
Congress, however, denied any role in the Patidar leader’s visit. “This reflects the distress the farmers of Madhya Pradesh are facing and what they are going through. One has to see how this will evolve and play out politically,” said KK Mishra, Congress spokesperson.
Patel plans to visit Mandsaur as well during his current trip after Gandhi virtually launched his party’s campaign there last week.