A riot accused, a black-ticket seller and now a leader who had been arrested earlier for making domestic bombs. Gopal Italia (31) the AAP’s Gujarat unit president who has been a vocal abuser of the BJP and Hindus, has had quite a controversial past.
Italia recently made the headlines for being barred from offering prayers by Hindu samaj at the Somnath Temple after his old videos abusing the Hindu community and rituals went viral on social media.
However, controversies are not new to Italia.
Italia, a local of Bhavnagar was earlier associated with Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) before getting into mainstream politics. Prior to this, he was a clerk in the revenue department, posted in Dhandhuka of the Saurashtra region.
Held for impersonating a cop
In January 2017, Italia who used to be a member of the Lok Rakshak Dal- a government body created to strengthen the state police force (until 2015), had made a call to a Gujarat minister impersonating as a cop.
Italia had called up Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel to report about the alleged ineffectiveness of the state’s new prohibition law. Italia was then a government clerk, but he had pretended to be a police officer. The conversation had gone viral on social media. Italia had alleged that the new law had resulted in a liquor price hike and strengthened the nexus between police, politicians and bootleggers.
Shortly, Italia was arrested for impersonating a public servant under Section 170 of the Indian Penal Code.
Justifying his act, Italia told police that he had called the minister only to inform him about the ineffectiveness of the new anti-liquor law. However, on developing cold feet when asked about his identity by the minister, he claimed that he was a policeman.
Italia hurled shoe at minister
In 2017, Italia was dismissed from his position as a clerk for “violation” of service rules, shortly after he had hurled shoes at the Gujarat Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja.
The incident had occurred on March 2, 2017, outside the public entry gate of the Gujarat Assembly building in Gandhinagar. Italia reportedly shouted “down with corruption” and hurled shoes at the minister who was about to begin his address to the media.
Italia, however, missed the target and soon lost his job too.
Italia fires PVC bombs
In 2018 Italia who had by then become the leader of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti was seen in a viral video firing a couple of shots from what he describes as a “pistol made of PVC pipes”.
What was shocking is Italia’s boastful speech where he claimed, “This is for the explosion as it doesn’t come under the guidelines of the Supreme Court or any other laws”, while flaunting the ‘homemade’ gun. The policeman-turned-quota activist-turned politician, Italia claimed that this gun could be used to attack the BJP members and the noise it makes is enough to reach Delhi.
Italia later giving a ludicrous excuse said, “Some farmers have invented this for scaring away animals which destroy their crops. Apart from attacking the BJP, I also used the video to send out a message to protect our environment. I believe that it is not as dangerous as other firecrackers. We all should protect our environment.”
Held for violation of Covid protocols
Italia who then went on to join the Aam Aadmi Party in 2020 was made the state unit’s vice-president in July that year. Since then he has been an active member of the political party with efforts to get more youth to join the party.
However, in January 2021, Gopal Italia and five other party workers were arrested by Surat police for not following social distancing norms on their visit to Mahidharpura.
Italia who is always on the lookout for a reason to falsely accuse the BJP of some ‘scam’ had posted a message on his official Facebook page. He stated that he is going to visit Mahidharpura diamond market area to meet the diamond traders to get details of the ‘alleged corruption’ in the upcoming project of Surat diamond bourse at Khajod area.
In early 2021, an FIR was registered against Italia and three others with Gujarat University police station in Ahmedabad last month under sections 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to public servant), 143 (unlawful assembly), 146 (violence by an unlawful assembly), and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.
They were booked following a scuffle with the police at the public meeting. He had said that the AAP had obtained the required permission from the police to hold that meeting. Italia’s anticipatory bail plea was rejected by a sessions court, after which he moved to the High Court.
Italia then surrendered before Ahmedabad police, following which he was produced in the metropolitan court and was granted bail.
Italia abuses Hindu rituals and community
In an old video that recently went viral on social media, Italia was heard saying, “If you do not like what I have to say then block me and leave because I don’t need you. People are spending a lot of money and time on non-scientific and unnecessary things like Satyanarayan Katha, Bhagwad Katha and other such useless things. Still, people do not know what they’ll gain out of doing this. They waste other people’s time also. If we spend even 5 paisa on such useless things, we do not have a right to live like humans.”
Calling Hindus as ‘eunuchs, Italia further said, “I am ashamed of such people. It angers me. If you don’t like what I said block me. We don’t need those who clap like hijras in name of rituals and culture. Some Sadhu will speak nonsense from the stage and we have to clap like hijras?”
In another viral video, Italia mocked devotional Hindu congregations and remarked, “Why are these kathakars doing kathas in Surat only? If you are so big go to border for kathas. Go do kathas at Pakistan border and Bangladesh border. Just spare the people here.”
Soon after the controversial videos spread like wildfire on social media, Italia decided to pay a visit to the Somnath Temple. However, he was reportedly barred from offering prayers at the Somnath Temple. Italia, visibly upset with the incident had to return without paying obeisance and once again blamed the BJP for an orchestrated attack on him.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party recently welcomed Surat businessman Mahesh Savani into the party just ahead of the Gujarat state assembly elections.
The move, however, garnered intense criticism as Savani, a top realtor from Surat was arrested in 2020 on allegations of extortion and kidnapping.
AAP leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia happy with the party’s growth in the state claimed, “In Gujarat, the AAP is growing day and night at quadruple speed.”
The state elections in Gujarat are slated to be held in December 2022.