NEW DELHI: With the recent arrest of Gopal Italia, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is focusing on catering to the Patidar vote bank, which is one of the decisive and dominant caste blocs in Gujarat politics. On 13 October, Gujarat AAP convenor Gopal Italia was detained by Delhi police from outside the office of the National Commission for Women. After his arrest, the AAP came out in support of Italia. From the Delhi Chief Minister to state leaders of the party, everyone tweeted for Itala. Gopal Italia was summoned by NCW for his two videos, which are doing the rounds on social media. In one video, he can be heard using derogatory remarks against PM Modi and in another video, he is using foul language against women. According to the police, he was detained to control the situation outside the NCW office, where his supporters had gathered. But the AAP has now twisted the incident to accuse the BJP of acting against the Patidar community. “With the arrest of Gopal Italia, there is huge anger in the Patel community in the whole of Gujarat,” Kejriwal had said after Italia was detained. The party also accused the ruling BJP of “working with the Patidars with a sense of revenge”.
But besides this, a new thing was noticed in AAP’s strategy to woo Patel community votes in the upcoming elections. In the past, in pursuit of a nationalistic identity, the AAP embraced Bhagat Singh and Dr B.R. Ambedkar as poster icons. But this time after Italia’s arrest, AAP roped in Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. A video with a picture of Bhagat Singh and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was shared by AAP Gujarat on Twitter, in which Italia was seen being detained by Delhi police. The Patel community makes up around 14-15% of the population of Gujarat. It is the largest caste in Gujarat after the Thakurs. As per figures, of the 6 crore population of Gujarat, Patidars make up 1.5 crore. According to these figures, this can also be said that Patels decide the fate of Gujarat politics. “Since 2015, after the Patidar reservation agitation, BJP is trying to finish Patel’s leadership from Gujarat politics and detaining Italia is also their ploy to finish the new generation Patel leader,” said Manoj Sorathiya, General Secretary AAP Gujarat. According to AAP, BJP has side-lined various Patel leaders. “BJP wants no big Patidar leader from the community. In the past, they have jilted Patel leaders like Varun Patel and Chirag Patel and Hardik Patel is recent,” accused an AAP leader. Told that BJP has given the top post in the state to Patel, the AAP leader said: “Bhupendra Bhai Patel is a rubber stamp, the government is run by state BJP chief C.R. Patil”. The ruling BJP is also trying to attract Patidar votes. Recently, state BJP chief C.R. Patil said that Bhupendra Bhai Patel will oversee another term, and analysts see steps to charm the Patel vote bank.