With polling for the 17th Lok Sabha elections completed on April 23 in Gujarat, the Congress has demanded disqualification of the maverick legislator Alpesh Thakore from the Vidhan Sabha, after he quit all posts from the party this month and supported independent candidates from the Thakore community in North Gujarat.

Ashwin Kotwal, Chief Whip of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), accompanied by another MLA, Baldevji Thakore, called on the Assembly Secretary here on Thursday and submitted the party’s letter addressed to Speaker Rajendra Trivedi.

‘Quit party posts’

Kotwal said Alpesh had resigned from all posts from the party and is no longer a Congress member or MLA. Alpesh had won from the Radhanpur Assembly constituency in the Banaskantha district of North Gujarat in the December 2017 elections on a Congress ticket.

Charging Alpesh with “anti-party” activities, Kotwal said the legislator was found campaigning for independent candidates fielded in these elections by the Gujarat Kshatriya-Thakore Sena (GKTS), of which he (Alpesh) is the Convener.

While quitting the Congress along with two more MLAs on April 10, Alpesh had charged the Gujarat Congress leadership with “sidelining” and “humiliating” him and ignoring interests of the Thakore community.

Refuting this charge, GPCC chief Amit Chavda said that Thakore had also been appointed AICC Secretary and co in-charge of party affairs in Bihar along with AICC General Secretary Shaktisinh Gohil.

He had also been appointed on some State Congress committees.

However, both the Congress and the BJP may have heaved a sigh of relief with Alpesh being sidelined even by the GKTS, which has seen splits in recent weeks.

In fact, the GKTS was so annoyed by Alpesh’s flip-flops and ‘loss of credibility’, that some of its angry leaders reportedly “directed” him to take a firm decision or face consequences. Following this showdown, he quit the Congress posts, but not the Assembly.

Even the BJP was cautious in handling him. Unlike other Congress MLAs who quit the party since July 2018 — two of which were inducted in the Vijay Rupani Ministry — Alpesh was allegedly trying to extract maximum mileage during “negotiations” with the saffron party since August 2018.

The BJP was, therefore, in no hurry to induct him.

Thakore community votes

Alpesh is also Convener of the OBC-SC-ST Ekta Manch (OSSM). Since 2015, he had seen a meteoric rise with his anti-liquor and pro-OBC reservation movements.

The Congress readily lapped him up. But he became an embarrassment to the party when his viral video carrying intemperate speeches against Hindi-speaking migrant labourers panicked them, leading to their exodus in thousands in October 2018.

Angry party workers in Bihar burnt his effigies and virtually banned his entry in the State. Ever since, the Gujarat Congress was also keeping him at an arm’s length.

OBCs account for nearly 45 per cent of all votes in Gujarat, with the Thakores forming a sizeable chunk.

With Alpesh’s exit, the Congress may suffer — and the BJP may potentially gain — in three North Gujarat LS constituencies of Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Patan, as well as in the Unjha Assembly by-poll.

The Thakore votes are also important in LS constituencies of Gandhinagar, Mehsana and Ahmedabad-East and -West, and in nearly 40 of the 182 Assembly segments of Gujarat.