Ahmedabad: More than 10 lakh people are expected to attend a mega rally here on Tuesday to be organised by an umbrella group of backward classes in Gujarat, which has emerged as a counter force against the Patel quota agitation.
The rally will be held at the sprawling Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Grounds, the same venue for a rally by the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) four months ago.
To be organised under the aegis of the OBC, SC, ST (OSS) Ekta Manch, the theme of the "maha rally" is "Vyasan Mukti" (de-addiction).
Alpesh Thakor, convenor of Thakor Sena, an OBC community group active in Gujarat for many years, said: "Every year 15,000 to 20,000 youngsters in Gujarat lose their lives to various addictions.
"The entire community and society is pained and we want to bring about a basic change in the mindset through this rally," he said.
Thakor had launched the OBC Ekta Manch as a counter to PAAS leader Hardik Patel's pro-Patel movement. A number of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes supported his Manch.
Tuesday's rally is being seen as a show of strength against the Patel community, which had organised a rally at the same venue on August 26 last year that drew lakhs of people.
The rally led to a police crackdown that resulted in the death of 12 people.
Thakor said Tuesday's rally was expected to see more than 10 lakh people.
The rally is also being seen as a move to unite the OBCs in the state against the Patel demand for quotas in government jobs and educational institutions in the OBC category.
"If people think our rally is only a show of strength, then let them. We are going to break all records," Thakor said, maintaining that the key issues for the rally would be de-addiction and raising the pitch for employment generation.
"We hope that our efforts get replicated in other states too. We want to organise similar events in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra but our focus is to raise the voice of the youth of Gujarat," he said.
Thakor, however, denied that the rally was a move to counter Hardik Patel or against the ruling BJP.
The local administration is gearing up for Tuesday and is not willing to take any chances.
"We are deploying over a dozen police superintendents, 4,000 policemen and State Reserve Police personnel so that things remain under control," Ahmedabad Joint Commissioner of Police Rajiv Ranjan Bhagat told the media.