India: The battle for saffron bastion Gujarat

  • Alpesh Thakor, who founded the Kshatriya Thakor Sena and, later, the OBC, SC, ST Ekta Manch (OSS), is all over the news after he came back to the Congress at the rally, giving the party a huge leg-up ahead of the Gujarat assembly election.
  • He says the OSS has been preparing for the election, to be held on 9 Dec and 14 Dec 17 for a year now. The organisation has established its presence at the polling-booth level in 108 of the 182 assembly constituencies in the state. “In 77 constituencies, our booth management is 100% complete.” He believes this will help the Congress win more than 125 seats. That is more than what the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party won in 2007 and 2012 – 117 and 115 respectively.
  • A win here will revive the sagging fortunes of the Congress as it prepares to retain Karnataka in 2018 and take on the BJP in the 2019 general election. A trinity of young Turks – Thakor, Patidar leader Hardik Patel and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani – is central to the Congress’s plans.
  • They are all vehemently opposed to the BJP and can dictate how their respective communities vote. Hardik has offered to support the Congress if it supports their demand for reservation and Mevani has said that while he will not join the Congress, Dalits will vote for the party.
  • A senior Congress leader of the state, requesting anonymity, says Patel and Mevani do not want to lose their identity by joining the party. “But they will give subtle messages to voters in favour of the Congress.”
  • Dalits make up 7% of Gujarat’s population, and Patidars 12%. Thakor has been raising issues like unemployment, lax implementation of Gujarat’s prohibition law and farmers’ loans for a few years now.
  • But he shot to fame when Patidars, an influential community also known as Patels, started demanding the status of Other Backward Classes (OBC) to avail of quotas in government jobs and educational institutes in 2015. Thakor had then opposed reservation for Patidars, as that would eat into the share of the existing 146 castes categorised under OBC.

External Link :