Modi visits Amreli, Leuva Patel strongmen in tow

ANarendra Modi at the inauguration of a college in Amreli on Friday. As CM attended the function, Congress workers staged a protest in the city against water crisis. Express photo

Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday attended a function here organised by Shantaben Haribhai Gajera Shaikshanik Sankul, an educational campus run by a trust headed by Surat-based diamantaire Vasant Gajera and a prominent Leuva Patel.

Former Congress leaders Narhari Amin and Vitthal Radadia, who crossed over to BJP recently, were also present at the function.

Both Amin and Radadia are also Leuva Patels and Modi's presence at the function, a parents' meet, is being seen as an attempt to woo the politically influential community ahead of the Lok Sabha polls due next year.

Former CM Keshubhai Patel, one of the tallest leaders among Leuva Patels, had launched a bitter campaign against Modi in the run-up to last year's Assembly polls, accusing him of ignoring the interests of his community. Patel had also attempted to mobilise Leuva Patels using the Khodaldham movement, which began early last year to build a grand temple of Khodiyar Mata, the community deity of Leuva Patels, at Kagvad village near Rajkot.

While Patel did not quite succeed and his Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) won just two Assembly seats, fears of alienation of Leuva Patels from the ruling BJP have remained, especially in Amreli where the fledgling GPP won in Dhari constituency. Also, it was in Amreli constituency that former minister Dilip Sanghani, a BJP strongman, was defeated by Paresh Dhanani of Congress in the 2012 polls.

However, Vasant Gajera, who is the elder brother of former BJP MLA Dhiru Gajera who quit the party some 10 years ago to join Congress, dismissed suggestions that Modi's visit had to do with politics.

"I am an industrialist and do not intend to join active politics. The CM's visit had no political objective. I work for promoting education and the CM is also doing the same. So, we invited him to encourage students and boost the prestige of our campus," he said.

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