Has Alpesh Thakor’s Lust for More Power Gotten the Better of Him?
Alpesh’s political ambitions knew no limits, as he was seeking a Lok Sabha ticket from Patan in North Gujarat.
The Quint DAILY
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The last 48 hours has been an all-out Alpesh Thakor show in Gujarat, as the Congress MLA from Radhanpur quit from all party posts; however, he has not resigned from the Gujarat Assembly.
Thakor’s move came after he was issued an ultimatum by his own outfit – the Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena – to either quit the Congress or quit the Thakor Sena. But was the reason given by Alpesh Thakor and his Sena justified?
Alpesh Thakor has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the political landscape of Gujarat, especially at a time when anti-incumbency was high across the state. But Alpesh’s political ambitions knew no limits, as he was seeking a Lok Sabha ticket from Patan in North Gujarat. Unfortunately for him, he lost the candidacy to Jagdish Thakor and he also missed the bus with the BJP.
In a press conference held on 10 April, Alpesh Thakor agreed that his move could well be political suicide, but was necessary for the greater interest of his community. Now that Alpesh has singled himself out, what does he seek in his political future?
Genesis in Caste-Based Politics
Alpesh started his political career with the Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena which he founded in 2011. The goal of the organisation was to ensure the well-being of the Thakors, along with ridding the community of the evils of alcoholism.
His Sena has over half a million followers across the state as over 40 percent of the state’s population are OBCs which include Thakors.
However, when the Patidar reservation movement peaked in Gujarat, Alpesh found an opportunity to leave his mark. He started the OBC SC/ST Ekta Manch, an organisation which countered the Patidar movement each step of the way, to ensure that Patidar reservation doesn’t take a bite out of the 27 percent reserved seats for the OBC and other reserved categories.
He even demanded a 100 percent caste-based reservation as an alternative to reservation demands made by several communities across the state.
It was BJP – the common enemy for PAAS and Thakor Sena – that brought Hardik and Alpesh together before the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections. Alpesh held a strong support base among Thakors in North Gujarat, and the Congress wasted no time in adding him to its ranks and also gave him a ticket from Radhanpur constituency in Patan.
With Alpesh in the fold, Jignesh Mewani contesting independently from Vadgam and Hardik Patel campaigning against BJP, the trifecta of Thakor, Dalit and Patidar leaders helped the Congress dent the BJP’s fortress, especially in rural Gujarat.
Rift Within the Party
Alpesh won from Radhanpur, improving his clout in the politics of the state. But that was not enough for him.
Alpesh and the Congress were at loggerheads towards the end of 2018 after the rape of a minor girl in Sabarkantha district led to widespread violence against North Indian migrant labourers, who fled from the state in droves.
The BJP pointed fingers at Alpesh, claiming that he gave a free hand to members of his Thakor Sena to attack innocent migrant labourers, who form the bulk of Gujarat’s industrial workforce. By the time the dust had settled, the damage was done and industrial output across the state had taken a beating.
Ironically, the Congress had appointed Alpesh as the AICC secretary in-charge of Bihar, home to many migrant workers. Towards the beginning of 2019, rumours were rife about differences between Alpesh and the Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda.
In January, Alpesh met Congress President Rahul Gandhi with a list of complaints including the exclusion of members of the Thakor community from key posts in the Congress at the local level.
Tug of War Over Tickets
However, the main issue was tickets for the Lok Sabha elections. Alpesh wanted to contest the elections from Patan which was passed on to another Thakor candidate, Jagdish Thakor. In March, when Congress MLAs were leaving Congress high and dry for the Saffron party, Alpesh too held secret talks with the BJP.
According to sources in the know the BJP didn’t offer him a cabinet berth and talks ended in a stalemate.
“The Thakor Sena was instrumental in helping the Congress clinch over 40 seats in Gujarat. Yet, our young boys from the Sena were sidelined by the congress and were not offered suitable positions at taluka and panchayat level.”Alpesh Thakor, MLA from Radhanpur Gujarat
Alpesh told the media on 10 April, “The party didn’t even consult with members of the Thakor Sena about Lok Sabha candidates. Our boys work so hard for the party and in return are ignored and insulted by the party.”
But Amit Chavda, the Gujarat Congress president, had this to say:
“Alpesh was handed several key positions within the party. He was part of several election committees and secretary in-charge of Bihar. He has insulted his own community by quitting the Congress. We are a public organisation where all grievances can be addressed in a mature manner.”Amit Chavda, Gujarat Congress President
What Next for Alpesh?
In a press conference held on Wednesday, 10 April, Alpesh declared that he will continue as an MLA from Radhanpur till 2022, when the next Assembly elections will be held. He also made it clear that he will not join the BJP.
“I will not join BJP. You, the media, are spreading such rumours. When Jawahar Chavda joined the BJP everyone said I too will get a cabinet berth. When I didn’t go, you said the deal didn’t crack. I am here to help the poor. I am not going to BJP and I have resigned from all party posts. If we three had to join BJP, then we’d quit from the Assembly. We will remain MLAs for 5 years.”Alpesh Thakor
Ironically, Alpesh even agrees that his move was nothing short of political suicide. He said, “This is a suicidal move, and I am committing it for the poor. But one man’s suicide will inspire lakhs of people.”
With Alpesh severing ties with the Congress, the BJP’s position has improved in north Gujarat. The agriculture and dairy belts of North Gujarat were long ignored by the state government and its after-effects were seen in the 2017 Assembly elections.
In Banaskantha, Congress won six out of nine seats; in Sabarkantha, Congress won five out of seven seats and in Patan, it won four out of five seats. But this equation will change if Alpesh decides to dent the Congress’ chances in the general elections.
However, the Thakor community have historically backed Congress, who introduced the KHAM movement (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) in the mid-80s.
Besides, Alpesh’s power lust has now become public knowledge, which could see him lose his political capital.
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