Thursday brought a pre-Diwali gift to the Gujarat Congress. The result of the by-elections for the six seats in the state included three victories for the Congress. The seats the party won include the Radhanpur seat where Alpesh Thakor, who had left the Congress and contested on a BJP ticket.
In Gujarat, the seats that the Congress has won are Radhanpur, Bayad and Tharad. The BJP has won in Amaravadi, Lunavada and Kheralu by-elections.
Alpesh loses from Radhanpur
The Congress leaders in the state were beaming when it became clear that Alpesh Thakor would lose the election. Thakor was trailing from the beginning and he could never take the lead till the end.
Although trends were arriving from all the six seats, all eyes were on the Radhanpur seat from where Alpesh was contesting.
As soon as it became clear that Thakor had lost the election to Congress candidate Raghu Desai, president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee Amit Chavda came out of his office and spoke to reporters. “People have taught the defectors a lesson and reposed their faith in the Congress. People are troubled by issues like inflation and unemployment. The result of the by-election is the result of people’s displeasure on these issues, ”said Chavda.
Alpesh blames caste politics
OBC leaders and former Congress MLAs Alpesh Thakor and Dhaval Singh Jala had left the party before the 2019 general election and joined the BJP. Both of them contested on BJP tickets, but both of them had to face crushing defeats at the hands of Congress candidates.
“I have lost due to caste politics but I will keep working for the people of Radhanpur,” Alpesh Thakor said while talking to the media after accepting his defeat.
By-elections in Radhanpur and Bayad had to be held because Alpesh Thakor, MLA from these areas, and Dhawal Singh Jala left the Congress and joined the BJP. The by-elections in Kheralu, Amaravadi, Tharad and Lunavada seats were held because the BJP had given the ticket of parliamentary elections to all those who were MLAs from these areas and all of them won the election and reached Parliament.
Interestingly, Alpesh Thakor and Dhawal Singh Jala had made serious allegations against senior Congress leaders before leaving the Congress and they were confident of winning the election on a BJP ticket.
In the electoral contests of Gujarat, Alpesh Thakor has fallen as fast as he had risen. He comes from the Thakor community of north Gujarat and is an emerging leader of the OBCs. He emerged as the leader who supported reservation during the movement started under Hardik Patel in support of the demand for reservation in education and jobs for the Patidars.
Before joining the Congress, the 43-year-old activist campaigned for de-addiction in a movement against tobacco. He appealed to the people of his community to stop drug abuse. He emerged as an anti-BJP youth leader. He had joined Congress before the Assembly elections in 2017 and won elections from the Radhanpur seat.
Rahul Gandhi made him Bihar supervisor
Thakor’s reputation was further enhanced when Congress president Rahul Gandhi made him the party’s observer for Bihar. However, soon he stood in opposition to the Congress and joined the BJP along with his supporters before the Lok Sabha election.
Leaving the Congress, Alpesh Thakor uploaded his resignation on his official Facebook page, in which he accused the senior Congress leaders of foul play. Thakor had said that Congress leaders had ‘ignored’ members of the Thakor community. He said, “This oldest party of the country has cheated Thakors”.
Thakor had accused the BJP in October 2018 of inciting riots against migrants in Gujarat. After the rape of a 14-year-old girl, migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were attacked across the state. Alpesh’s Thakor Army was accused of these attacks on migrants.
Political observers in Gujarat say Alpesh Thakor’s transformation as a BJP leader was never convincing. He had alienated with his belligerent activism large chunks of the electorate, which marred his chances of winning an election from the state.