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Patidars force Amit Shah to backtrack at rally

Manmath Nayak1 |

Hundreds of Patidars on Thursday kicked up a ruckus here at a public meeting meant to showcase the BJP’s support of the Patel community, compelling BJP President Amit Shah to cut short his speech. Police used lathis and tear gas to quell violence.

Despite large deployment of police and paramilitary forces, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) supporters sported saffron caps and barged into the venue where legislators of the Patel community were to be felicitated by Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

Belying the organizers’ claim that lakhs of Patels would attend the function, hardly about 10,000 turned up amid heavy police deployment while over 500 supporters of PAAS, led by BJP dissident MLA Nalin Kotadia, laid virtual siege of the place and prevented people from reaching it.

Police used lathis and burst tear gas shells to disperse the PAAS supporters.

The PAAS supporters started raising slogans like "Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar" and hurled chairs as soon as Amit Shah and Rupani stood on the stage.

Both the BJP leaders cut short their speeches to a couple of minutes as a result of the bedlam. Amit Shah, ironically, said: "The Patidars were the backbone of the growth of Gujarat and the BJP."

Earlier, a life-size cutout of Amit Shah, put up outside the venue, was damaged by the PAAS supporters. Police took into custody over 100 people, including PAAS district convenors.

The felicitation of Patel community legislators was organised by some local businessmen to express confidence in the BJP government.

PAAS supporters, who roamed around the venue preventing people from attending the function, pelted stones at the policemen deployed to provide security to Shah and other leaders of the BJP.

The PAAS protesters also damaged a couple of state transport buses in the Patel-dominated Varachha Road area. State transport buses were withdrawn and diverted to other routes.

The Surat Collector ordered the closure of mobile Internet service in and around the city as a precaution to prevent the spread of rumours through social media.