Seven years back, Gopal Italia along with Hardik Patel launched a massive movement demanding quota for Gujarat’s powerful Patidars. But in this election, they are making all-out efforts to woo the community towards their parties.
In the ensuing Assembly elections, both Hardik and Italia are making a strong pitch to woo people of the Patidar community for their respective parties — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Patidars constitute around 12 per cent of the population in Gujarat.
In Surat’s Katargam Assembly constituency, one of the main centres of the 2015 Patidar agitation, Italia, president of the state unit of AAP, is pitted against incumbent state minister and sitting MLA Vinod Moradiya, who also hails from the Patidar community.
Speaking to The New Indian in Katargam, Italia said he is confident of garnering the support of his community for the AAP in this Assembly election.
“We are getting good support from the Patidar community and we will win the election with a good margin,’ he said on his campaign trail.
“People of Katargam want a change,” he declared. Italia does not see any major challenge from BJP and Congress candidates in the constituency.
On being asked about Hardik, who joined the BJP after quitting as state Congress president, overshadowing him among the community, he said: “You should ask this question to the common people.”
“People are fed up with the BJP and they want a change. Whether it is Patidaar or any other community, everyone wants to change and they see AAP as an alternative,” Italia said.
Hardik Patel is contesting from the Viramgam seat in Ahmedabad.
Out of the 18 Assembly segments in Surat, BJP emerged victorious in 15 Assembly constituencies while Congress bagged the rest three in the last 2017 state elections.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the latest to enter the state’s political arena, has emerged as the third contender after BJP and Congress. In 2021, the party took everyone by surprise by winning 27 out of 120 seats in the civic elections in Surat. Italia was credited with that victory.
Italia rejected apprehensions that cases of corruption against some senior leaders of AAP, which took birth as the result of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, could negatively affect the ensuing polls in Gujarat.
“Nothing has been proved against them. People know what is happening,” he said, calling cases against Delhi ministers Satyendar Jain and deputy CM Manish Sisodia as fake.
During his meeting with constituents and in public rallies for other candidates, Italia reiterates the party’s poll promises – good hospitals and better education and infrastructure.
“(If elected), we will do what BJP did not do in the last 27 years of its rule. We will also work to end corruption.”