Surat: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday announced that the AAP will contest the next assembly election in Gujarat and asked the people to "throw out (BJP President) Amit Shah" who he said was running the state by proxy.
"Amit Shah has thrown an open challenge to the people of Gujarat that he will run the state whichever way he wants and no one can do anything about it," Kejriwal thundered at a huge rally at Yogi Chowk.
Using the phrase "aam aadmi" (common man) for the Aam Aadmi Party, Kejriwal said that the "aam aadmi" would take on both the Congress and the state's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) next year.
Alleging that Gujarat was being run by Amit Shah, a former Gujarat Home Minister and a confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he appealed to the people to "oust" the BJP chief.
"Are you ready to fight the elections, win and throw out Amit Shah? The next Gujarat election will not be an election but a revolution," he added to wild cheers. "It will be Amit Shah versus the people of Gujarat."
A few protesters grouped under Brahma Samaj and self-proclaimed Patidar activists tried to raise slogans against the AAP chief but they hardly numbered 25 to 30. They were rounded by the police.
Police sources in Surat said Kejriwal's rally drew a good response because of the backing of Hardik Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and its activists.
The same PAAS had disrupted a rally of Amit Shah in the same Patel-dominated area of Surat last month, forcing him to wind up his speech in just four minutes.
The AAP leader said the Surat gathering reminded him of the Anna Hazare movement of 2011 when the the "whole nation" had come out on the streets.
Taking up cudgels for the agitating Patidars, Kejriwal said the Gujarat government was trying to suppress them "in the same way it crushes all those who raise their voice".
The Delhi Chief Minister said the BJP government claimed there was liquor prohibition in the state but pointed out that 19 people lost their lives recently in Surat after consuming hooch.
He also quoted OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who runs a campaign against illicit liquor in Gujarat, as saying that every year 10,000-15,000 people died after consuming illicit liquor in the state.
Kejriwal described Patidar leader Hardik Patel as a "patriot", came out in support of the Dalits in Gujarat and referred to Amit Shah as "General Dyer".
Referring to the police firing on Patidar protests last year, he said the Patel youths were not extremists. "They are our citizens... Those who ordered the firing will be punished."
He mockingly described the BJP and the Congress as "husband and wife" and pointed out that the Narendra Modi had so far arrested 14 AAP MLAs in Delhi but not a single Congress legislator.
He claimed the BJP was hand in glove with the Congress. "Have you seen any protests by the BJP against Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat?"
Kejriwal also made fun of the BJP's assertion that it was a pro-Hindu party. "But weren't the Patidars Hindus? Weren't the Dalits Hindus? Then why did this government punish them?"
Earlier, Delhi Police arrested AAP Delhi MLA and Gujarat in-charge Gulab Singh here, just hours before Kejriwal's rally, on charges of involvement in an extortion racket. Gulab Singh has denied the charge.
Gulab Singh offered himself for arrest at a police station to prevent the police from reaching the rally venue.
Sunday's rally was the high point of Kejriwal's four-day visit to Gujarat. The AAP leader is expected to return to Delhi early on Monday.