Shailesh, a resident of the Kocharva village in Valsad, south Gujarat was a farmer by profession and had over 70 acres of farming land where he grew mangoes. Representational photo: iStock

Gujarat BJP leader, one of party’s key faces in tribal belt, shot dead

Shailesh Patel, a prominent BJP leader from south Gujarat was shot dead by bike-borne assailants in broad daylight in Valsad district, Gujarat on Thursday (May 11). He was the party’s vice president in the Vapi taluka.

The 45-year-old leader was waiting in his car for his wife Nayaben to return from the Mahadev temple in Vapi when the assailants shot at him from point-blank range, the local police said.

Shailesh’s wife heard the noise of the bullets being fired when she ran back to the vehicle to find him in a pool of blood. Patel was rushed to the hospital by passers-by who had gathered following the incident. However, he was declared “brought dead”.

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“What would be the difference between Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat if such incidents happened in broad daylight?” questioned a family member of the deceased.

Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered by the local police under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 302 (murder), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 120 (b) (punishment of Criminal Conspiracy) and Arms Act 25 (1) (a), 25 (1)(b), and 27.

RD Faldu, the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Valsad said, “We have issued an alert message into the incident and sealed all the entry and exit points of the district so that the assailants could not escape the district borders.”

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“The bullet hit the victim’s right eye and passed through the back of his head. We have recovered one case of bullet from inside the car. His wife is the only eye witness and complainant in the matter,” added Faldu.

Reportedly, this was the fourth attack on Shailesh with the intention to end his life. As per local police, there was a feud between Shailesh and another family in his village.

In 2013, there was an attack on his father and elder brother that left them severely injured. Shailesh’s father Ishwar Patel had remained paralysed for six months but the duo had survived the attack.

In 2014, members of the same family had shot at Sailesh but he was unhurt. Four people were arrested by the police then who were later granted bail. Two of the accused out on bail – Sharad and Mitesh had again attacked Shailesh by trying to run him over by a vehicle. However, both of them were arrested and set out on bail again.

Shailesh, a resident of the Kocharva village in Valsad, south Gujarat was a farmer by profession and had over 70 acres of farming land where he grew mangoes.

He had been vice president of BJP’s Vapi taluka unit for three consecutive terms and was one of the influential faces representing Koli community (OBC) of the region. Shailesh, a popular leader in two Assembly seats Kaprada and Pardi in south Gujarat, played a significant role in BJP gaining its foothold in the tribal region of south Gujarat.

“Shailesh Patel was committed to the party for a long time. He had been working in the organisation structure of the party and worked his way up to the post of vice president. The party has lost an influential leader who was responsible for strengthening the party in the tribal areas,” said Hemant Kalsara, the party’s president of the Valsad unit.

This is not the first time there has been an attack on a BJP local leader from south Gujarat. On December 1, 2022, in the first phase of the state polls, Piyush Patel, a BJP candidate from Vansda, Navsari district in south Gujarat was attacked and hospitalised.

Piyush was the sitting MLA from the Vansda, a tribal-dominated constituency until he lost the seat to Congress’s Anant Patel in 2022. A day before he was attacked, he had given an ultimatum to the local police to curb gambling and bootlegging in the area. Later in a campaign speech, he had said if the police fail to do so, the locals will engage in ‘janta raids’ on such dens.

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