AHMEDABAD, November 22 The political trajectory of three young leaders in Gujarat reflects how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) turned the tide of public opinion that showed signs of aberration in the last Assembly elections in 2017.
The charismatic Hardik Patel and Alpish Thakur who caused massive consternation in the BJP camp in 2017 are now a faded shadow of their sexy former selves after being absorbed by the BJP. On the other hand, Dalit activist Jinesh Mivani has grown in stature and is now the Acting President of the Congress. The three are contesting the running Assembly elections, Hardik and Alpesh are running on the BJP ticket and Jinesh as the Congress candidate.
File photo of Alpesh Thakur | Image source: VIJAY SONEJI
Taming the Kshatriyas
Experience the desperation with which Alpesh Thakur tried to shed his ‘outsider’ label and escalate the BJP rhetoric even as he was presenting his own candidacy for the Gandhinagar Assembly (South) constituency. “Make the lotus victorious,” he said, “as you have always done.”
This is a far cry from the aggressive agitator in 2016 who ran a movement against alcoholism in his community and formed the OBC, SC-ST (OSS) Ekta Manch in 2016. Targeting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government for its “ineffective” policy to ban alcohol, he was Thakur had placed Vijay Rupani’s administration on a month’s notice to stop illegal liquor dens in the state, or face “Janta raids”.
Thakur joined the Congress in October 2017 ahead of the 2017 General Assembly elections and contested the elections from Radhanpur seat in Patan district, which had earlier been represented by Nagarji Thakur of the BJP. He got 85,777 votes and defeated Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lavingji Thakur by 14,857 votes.
Within two years, however, he had turned against the Congress, and voted in the Rajya Sabha polls for BJP candidate S Jaishankar. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in July 2019 and was later posted by the party in the sub-pickets from Radhanpur constituency.
Alpesh lost to Congressman Raghu Desai by 3,814 votes.
He now has to rely on the BJP to give him a “safe” seat in Gandhinagar (south) in return for conceding all previous aggression in favor of an all-out campaign for his new party.
Patidar mascot is Shade
Riding on the agitation on the Patidar Protectorate, Hardik Patel became a force to be reckoned with in Gujarat. But a mob of about 5 people on the streets of Ahmedabad in August 2015 led to violence that claimed 14 lives and landed Hardik on charges of sedition and a host of criminal cases against him. While the BJP was struggling to contain the damage, the Anandibin Patel government announced a 10 per cent reservation for the Economically Backward Class (EBC) of non-reserved communities including Patidars, Brahmins, Baniyas and others in May 2016.
At the same time, Hardik was sent into exile outside Gujarat for six months due to several court cases. His conviction in a riot case also prevented him from running in the elections.
He tried to solicit political support, and joined Congress in 2019, but could not contest the Lok Sabha elections due to his conviction. In June 2022, a month after the Supreme Court decided to stay his conviction, Hardik switched sides and joined the BJP. The party kicked him out of his constituency of Viramgam, which has less than 20 percent of the urban electorate and which earlier held Congress in the 2012 and 2017 elections.
But he wasn’t quite the mass rally he once was, having morphed into an ordinary BJP worker without much of a following at the party’s state headquarters. “He comes and goes sometimes even without being noticed. He is just like any other candidate for us,” said one BJP staffer.
Jignesh Mevani is the only one out of the three Young Turks of 2017 who has not only progressed himself, but also progressed – from Independent MLA in 2017 to Working Chairman of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee.
Although he is challenged on the ground in his constituency, Vadgam, by Manibhai Vaghela, an ex-Congress MLA from the same constituency with a strong floor who switched to the BJP and secured a party ticket, Jignesh has the vision of an activist. I am an activist. Winning the election is not a matter of life and death for me,” said Jignesh business line. “I look forward to political work in the future,” he said, explaining how he has grown politically over the years.
“We suffered a lot in 2017. But we were not well organized. We were not aware of the rules and dimensions of electoral politics and how things work. It has now emerged as a voice for Dalit issues and against atrocities and injustice.