Ahmedabad: The Patel quota agitation in Gujarat saw the emergence of Hardik Patel as a new star on the horizon of state politics in 2015 during which Congress gained some ground in rural areas in the local bodies polls at the expense of ruling BJP.
The state also witnessed heavy rains in some districts resulting in flood-like situation and loss of lives and property during the monsoon, but many other districts received deficient rain which increased the agrarian distress caused by scarce rains in the previous year.
During the year, senior policemen arrested in various infamous encounter cases, including D G Vanzara and ADGP P P Pandey, were released from jail on bail and most of them were reinstated to the service.
IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who had taken on BJP government over 2002 riots, was, however, dismissed from service.
The Gujarat High Court gave rulings in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the two cases of alleged poll code breach and affidavit for 2012 election.
High aspirations of numerically and politically influential Patel community resulted in the quota agitation in the state which was led by community youths. 21-year-old Hardik, after organising many small rallies in different parts of the state, held a massive rally in Ahmedabad on August 25 and openly challenged the BJP state government saying “lotus will not bloom”, if his community is not included in the OBC quota for reservations.
His subsequent detention by the state government as he refused to leave the venue till Chief Minister Anandiben Patel comes to take his memorandum led to large scale violence in the state, where his community members resorted to stone pelting, arson and hooliganism. Ten people including one policemen were killed in the riots in the next two days.
The state government in response to the agitation outrightly denied reservation to Patels citing Constitution, and later in October arrested Hardik and his top aides and put them behind bars on sedition charges.
The high court has also prima facie upheld sedition charges in two separate cases against Hardik, while his bail has also been denied by a lower court, making him an inmate of Surat’s Lajpore jail at present.
The BJP tried to defer local bodies polls which were to be held amid the ongoing the Patel quota stir, by bringing out ordinance, but it was struck down by the high court and state Election Commission was asked to hold the polls immediately.
In the polls of six municipal corporations, 52 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 230 taluka panchayats which were held in November and result announced on December 2, Congress made a resounding comeback by winning most of the district and taluka panchayats in rural areas, while the BJP managed to retain six municipal corporations and won 40 out of 52 municipalities.
Congress, which has not managed to win any substantial
elections in the state in the last 20 years, saw this result as a stepping stone for the 2017 state assembly polls.
For BJP, the impression that it cannot be defeated in the home state of Modi was challenged by the poll results.
Not only the Patel quota agitation, but also the agrarian distress by scare rains in the last two years in many districts coupled with heavy rains causing floods and destruction of life and properties and the response to it by the state government also seemed to affect BJP’s poll results in rural Gujarat.
Scanty rains led to farm-related issues like lack of water for irrigation, less crop production and drinking water and fodder crisis in some parts of Saurashtra and Kutch during the summer.
At the same time, state witnessed unprecedented rains in districts of Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar in Saurashtra region on June 24 in which more than 70 people lost their lives. While, North Gujarat districts of Banaskantha and Kutch received heavy rains in the last week of July which resulted in deaths of 75 persons. However, many other districts of the state received very less rainfall then average.
During the year, all the cops alleged to have been involved in the infamous Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Ishrat Jahan encounter cases, including Vanzara, Pandey and DySP N K Amin were released on bail by different courts.
Pandey, Amin and another DySP Tarun Barot and all the other police officers named in encounter cases were reinstated by the Gujarat government, while Vanzara, who had retired earlier received a hero’s welcome when he came out of jail in February.
Suspended IPS officer Bhatt, who took on the previous Gujarat government headed by the former Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was terminated from service in August.
Modi’s famous pinstripe monogrammed suit that he wore during US President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January witnessed intense bidding during a three-day auction held in Surat from February 18. The suit was purchased for Rs 4.31 crore by Surat based diamond trader Lalji Patel.