Gujarat: Alpesh Thakore, 2 other MLAs quit Congress

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on April 12, 2019

File Photo of Alpesh Thakore.

With barely 10 days left for the end of campaign for the April 23 vote in Gujarat, both the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress Party are keeping their fingers crossed, wondering whether they have gained or lost, respectively, after the controversial legislator from Radhanpur, Alpesh Thakore, quit the Congress on Wednesday.

Two of his associate MLAs, Dhavalsinh Zala (Bayad) and Bharatsinh Thakore (Becharaji), also resigned from the Congress. They have, however, not quit their Assembly seats.

Entry to Congress

Thakore had been inducted into the party amid much fanfare by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in October 2017, just before the Assembly polls in December 2017.

“We were being humiliated by senior Congress leaders,” Thakore claimed, while clarifying that he will neither join nor campaign for the BJP and had only relinquished the posts he held in the Congress. Both he and the Congress leadership blamed each other with the ‘lure of money and power’ in taking decisions.

The 44-year-old Thakore, who is Convener of Gujarat Kshatriya-Thakore Sena (GKTS) as well as the OBC-SC-ST Ekta Manch (OSSM), said that for now, he will focus on election campaign of GKTS candidates currently contesting the LS election from Banaskantha constituency and the Assembly by-election at Unjha.

OBCs account for nearly 45 per cent of votes in Gujarat and the Thakores form a sizeable chunk of it. With Thakore’s exit, the Congress may suffer, and the BJP may potentially gain, in three North Gujarat LS constituencies of Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Patan, and 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.

Controversial leader

Thakore’s ‘negotiations’ with the BJP and ‘disenchantment’ with the Congress were in the air since August 2018. Subsequently, his viral video allegedly inciting the people to force out North Indians from Gujarat, and their panicked exodus in their thousands, made him a persona non grata for a few months even in the Congress.

His effigies were burnt in Uttar Pradesh and the Bihar Congress virtually banned his entry there, despite his being the AICC in-charge of that State, along with Shaktisinh Gohil, AICC General Secretary. The Vijay Rupani government also faced acute embarrassment due to the North Indians’ exodus and had to mollycoddle the victims.

Due to his flip-flops and ‘loss of credibility’, many even in the GKTS leadership were perturbed. On April 9, they virtually directed him to quit the Congress within 24 hours as it had failed to field Thakore candidates in the LS polls. It was, apparently, under pressure from his own followers that he resigned from the Congress.

Loss to Congress

With the exit of Thakore and two other MLAs, the Congress’ strength in the Assembly, which stood at 77 after the December 2017 poll, now stands at 71.

Exodus from the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) began in July 2018 when its veteran Koli leader Kunwarji Bavalia joined the BJP, became a Cabinet Minister within hours, and was re-elected from Jasdan (Rajkot) in November 2018. Subsequently, two more MLAs joined the BJP, one of them Jawahar Chavda (Manavadar-Junagarh) became a minister while the other, Asha Patel (Unjha-Mehsana), is waiting to be ‘rehabilitated’.

With Thakore’s exit, and Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel’s failure to contest the LS polls due to court cases, the BJP government may have heaved a sigh of relief. The two Young Turks, and their third associate Jignesh Mevani, had kept the BJP government on tenterhooks since mid-2015 due to their mass agitations. While Alpesh and Hardik largely focused on Gujarat politics, Jignesh, who is an Independent MLA, has been busy in national politics.

Published on April 11, 2019

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