Hardik Patel, the last standing young Turk, remains crucial for Congress in Gujarat
The triumvirate - Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani had hogged limelight post caste agitations in Gujarat back in 2015.
Two years down the line, it is only the youngest that remains standing. The triumvirate — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani — had hogged limelight post caste agitations in Gujarat back in 2015. While the Patidar agitation had thrown up Hardik along with several other young Patel leaders, Alpesh Thakore came up through his “social work” of raiding illicit liquor dens in North Gujarat with his Thakore Sena under the protection of the ruling political dispensation. Jignesh Mevani, a journalist turned Dalit activist, led the Dalit Protest after the members of a Dalit family was thrashed in Una for skinning a dead cow in 2016.
Cut to 2019, while Hardik is all set to address about 50 public meetings in the state and Congress has allocated him a dedicated helicopter, Thakore, who had become an MLA from Radhanpur on a Congress ticket has resigned from the party. Mevani, whom Congress had supported in one of its safest seats in Vadgam and made an independent MLA is nowhere to be seen in the campaign heat. For Hardik, however, insiders admit, that the party is pinning probably its maximum hope on this 25-year-old after President Rahul Gandhi and General Secretary Prianka Gandhi Vadra, to mobilise public opinion.
Interestingly, Alpesh Thakore was propped up essentially as a counter balance to Hardik Patel’s growing popularity in the wake of Patidar agitation and his ‘janta raids’ against the illicit liquor dens had tacit support from the administration. But sensing a better chance for himself in Congress ahead of assembly elections in 2017, Thakore joined Congress and contested from Radhanpur and went on to become an MLA.
Congress later also gave him the charge of Bihar along with senior leader Shaktisinh Gohil.
Last week, he however resigned from the party alleging corruption and disrespect on Congress as he resigned from all positions. However he had made it clear that he will continue as a member of the legislative assembly. While Congress since then has removed him from his charge of Bihar, senior Congress leaders ET spoke to indicated that the party may soon take a strong stand on his status as an MLA as well. Similarly, Mevani, who rode on the anger of the Dalit community after the Una incident dent MLA from a Congress safe seat with more than active support from the party has excused himself from campaigning in the state. Expressing their dismay over Mevani, several senior Congress leader maintained that he has been more busy outside the state building his image as a Dalit leader than making any attempt to return the favour of the party that propelled him inside the Assembly. “We hoped that Jignesh will campaign for the party in the state, but so far he has not shown any interest,” said a senior functionary of Gujarat Congress. “He is more interested in building his brand as a young Dalit leader than work on the ground,” smirks another leader.
Meanwhile, Hardik, who joined the party formally only last month had already proved beneficial for the party in 2017 when he extensively campaigned among the farmers and Patidars in Saurashtra region and continued working in the rural areas since then. While his ambition of contesting Lok Sabha elections in 2019 was dashed by Gujarat High Court, Congress already enlisted him as astar campaigner.