Gujarat Files: Gujarat BJP gets ready for election

The frivolous and contrived complaints against Jignesh Mevani could not have prompted police action without the approval of the top brass in Assam Police and without a nudge from BJP leaders

Gujarat Files: Gujarat BJP gets ready for election
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R K Misra

Avid Gujarat watchers are not surprised at the arrest of Jignesh Mevani by Assam Police and the plea by Gujarat Government to withdraw a case against Hardik Patel. While sceptics continue to wonder if AAP will damage BJP more in the election and if Hardik Patel can afford to quit the Congress, all out efforts are on to weaken and demoralize the Congress and sow doubts and confusion in its ranks ahead of the election due later this year.

Mevani, a Congress-backed independent Gujarat legislator and a Dalit activist, lawyer and former journalist, was arrested by Assam Police in a midnight swoop on April 21 from the circuit house in Palanpur,district headquarters of Banaskantha. He was brought to Ahmedabad in a police vehicle and flown to Assam allegedly for tweeting against the Prime Minister.

The tweet so offended one Arup Dey, an executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council at Kokrajhar, that he filed a police complaint on April 19. And the offence was deemed to be so serious that Assam Police flew to Gujarat immediately and arrested the legislator.

A report by Damayantee Dhar for NewsClick provided details on how Gujarat police rummaged the premises of Mevani’s family home, office of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM),his MLA quarters as well as homes of his support staff, seizing computers, CPUs, mobile phones and even posters. No protocol was followed for arresting a legislator by the Assam cops.

Courts in Kokrajhar remanded Mevani to police custody for three days. When it finally ordered him to be released on bail, Assam Police re arrested him, this time on the charge of assaulting a woman constable! The law was of course following its own course. The assault, for the record, allegedly took place when Mevani was being taken from Guwahati airport to Kokrajhar by road on April 22. Mevani has been in the cross-hairs of the BJP government. He worked tirelessly during the Corona pandemic to set up a 13,000 litre oxygen plant in his constituency that could refill 800 jumbo cylinders every day; but before the project could be commissioned, the Gujarat Charity Commissioner froze the bank account of the charitable trust undertaking it.

Gujarat Files: Gujarat BJP gets ready for election

Mevani subsequently moved the High Court seeking direction to the state government to allow him to use his MLA funds to create health facilities in his constituency. The Congress too joined with a similar petition and while the hearing was on, Gujarat Government hastily announced that all legislators could put their discretionary funds to such use.

“Mevani is a fighter and we will continue our fight,”says one of his supporters who joined Congress volunteers in statewide protests over his arrest. “They have just handed us a cause,” he quipped.

Interestingly while Mevani remains in the custody of Assam Police, Manilal Vaghela who had quit the Congress last year was welcomed into the BJP by BJP state President C.R. Paatil.

Even as Gujarat media speculated on an early election and the possibility of Hardik Patel joining the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi informally launched BJP’s election campaign in the state. If Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Gujarat ahead of the assembly polls in 2017, this time Prime Ministers of UK and Mauritius, Boris Johnson and PK Jagnauth flew into Ahmedabad, followed by the WHO secretary general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Modi’s own three-day visit to the state hogged the headlines and created the hype associated with the PM’s poll campaigns.

The jury is still out on which party the hyper-active Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat will damage more in elections, Congress or the BJP. AAP appears to be strong in urban areas where BJP stands to lose more seats. That probably explains why Gujarat Police has been targeting several AAP leaders.

Isudan Gadhvi was first jailed for 11 days in December for protesting against a paper leak. In January he was booked under the Prohibition Act as Gandhinagar police claimed that a test showed 0.0545 per cent presence of alcohol in his blood on the day of the protest. The test was conducted after a woman worker of the BJP complained of being molested.

AAP activist Yuvrajsinh Jadeja, who has been embarrassing the BJP government over examination paper leaks, was also arrested along with an aide for allegedly assaulting a policeman this month. Jadeja’s crusade against irregularities in government recruitment had led to cancellation of two government examinations besides ongoing investigation into irregularities in two other examinations and dozens of arrests.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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