Gujarat CM resigns after Dalit protests


NEW DELHI: In a sign of growing trouble for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Anandiben Patel, the woman chief minister of his home state of Gujarat, resigned on Monday.

Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed Ms Patel’s resignation ahead of next year’s assembly polls was prompted by the rise of his party as a challenger. Mr Kejriwal earlier said in a video message that the Modi government was arresting his MLA’s to harass them. “Don’t be surprised if he gets me killed. He has lost his composure,” Mr Kerjiwal said.

Ms Patel’s resignation came as the state witnessed mass protests over the flogging of a Dalit family by a cow vigilante group for skinning a dead animal.

During a rally on Sunday, the Dalit community had put the BJP-led government on notice, saying they would teach the party a lesson in the elections next year.

Mr Modi had come to power as Gujarat CM at the head of a similarly divided party, but he consolidated his power in the shadow of the 2002 Gujarat pogroms.

Reports said that Ms Patel’s resignation has thrown the party into crisis as it looks for a new face. Though the 2002 riots did help Modi electorally, 2016 is a different scenario altogether, reports said. The state government is facing charges of inept handling of the Dalit protests, which has claimed many lives.

Earlier, the Patidar of powerful peasant-entrepreneurial caste (to which the outgoing chief minister belonged) had brought the state government to its knees, forcing it to announce job and education quota for the Patidar community.

Hardik Patel, the young leader of the Patidars, has issued open threat to the BJP. When he was released from jail recently, thousands turned up to greet him.

Even as the party was assessing the damage after the Patidar agitation, the protests against the recent Dalit atrocities swept over the state and even spilled over to Uttar Pradesh where it has another election to fight. And those who are behind these attacks are believed to be people from the BJP’s Hindutva offshoots only.

Reuters adds: Thousands of Dalits rallied on Sunday in the state capital Ahmedabad, blocking roads and attacking buses, local media reported.

Unrest in the state erupted last month after four Dalit men in the city of Una were tied to a car, stripped and flogged by Hindu vigilantes, who accused them of skinning a cow, a revered animal for Hindus.

Landless Dalits are at the bottom of India’s age-old social hierarchy, making them vulnerable to discrimination and attacks by upper-caste Hindus, including by hardline “gau rakshak” vigilantes who regard cows as sacred.

The slaughter of cows is banned in most Indian states including Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Dalits in the state have said they earn a livelihood from skinning cows and buffalos that die naturally.


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