Addressing a huge rally in Varaccha area of Surat, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today reminded the Patidar community of police atrocities during their agitation seeking quota, and promised traders that his party would make changes to the GST to meet their demands if elected.
Varaccha is considered a stronghold of the Patel (or Patidar) community and was one of the epicentres of the Patidar quota agitation in 2015.
A huge crowd turned up to listen to Gandhi in the city, where the BJP had swept 15 out of 16 Assembly seats in the 2012 Gujarat elections.
“This is a fight between the truth of Gujarat and the truth of BJP. The truth of Gujarat is different from that of BJP. The truth of BJP is the order to fire on the Patel community (during quota agitation),” Gandhi said.
At least 14 Patidar youths died — some of them in police firing — during the community’s agitation for OBC quota in August 2015 which had taken a violent turn.
“Truth of Gujarat, and truth of Surat, is that our people can take on China from here. But instead of helping you, the BJP is helping a few industrialists,” Gandhi said.
The Congress vice-president started his speech with the slogans used by Patel quota agitators, such as ‘Jay Sardar, Jay Patidar’ and ‘Jai Bhavani’.
He criticised the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre on the issue of demonetisation, GST, unemployment and ease of doing business in this diamond and textile hub.
Surat recently witnessed an agitation by textile traders against the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“Modi-ji has ruined small and medium businessmen by introducing demonetisation and GST. If we come to power, we will listen to what you have to say. If you say that GST needs to be changed, we will change it,” Gandhi said.
After the quota agitation of 2015, it has become almost difficult for the BJP to organise public meetings in Varaccha area which has a sizable population of Patidars hailing from Saurashtra region.
BJP president Amit Shah’s rally in the area was disrupted by Patidar protesters in September, 2016.
The Congress vice-president was welcomed by a large number of people who lined up along the roads as his convoy passed through the city today.