It Was 'Sweet Revenge' for Cong's Raghu Desai against Turncoat Alpesh Thakor in Gujarat's Radhanpur
Ahmedabad: Ever since Congress’ Radhanpur candidate Raghu Desai emerged victorious in the Assembly bypoll on Thursday, his phone has kept ringing with congratulatory calls from across the country for defeating party turncoat Alpesh Thakor who contested on a BJP ticket.
Desai won the seat by a margin of 3,807 votes. Thakor was supposed to be made a Cabinet minister had he won the seat, but Desai ensured that the former’s desire remains unfulfilled, at least for now.
The 45-year-old Congress leader has been hailed as a ‘giant killer’ in more than one ways and it was like a sweet revenge against his former party colleague.
Results of the six Assembly bypolls were out on October 24 in which the Congress won three seats and the ruling BJP won three.
However, political analysts were keenly following the outcome of Radhanpur from where Thakor, a popular OBC leader, contested, for more than one reasons.
In 2017, Desai, a resident of Varana village in Sami taluka of Patan district, had reluctantly given up his traditional bastion for Thakor. He was given a ticket for the nearby Chanshma constituency from where he lost to the BJP candidate.
“I had toiled hard to ensure Thakor’s victory in Randhapur in 2017 and held gatherings of my community for him. It was mutually decided that he would reciprocate the gesture by canvasing for me in Chansma constituency and he would appeal to his fellow community members to vote for me, but he didn’t do that. I had vowed to take revenge,” Desai told News18.
“I waited for the moment to bring down the curtain on Thakor’s political carrer and he provided the opportunity when he joined the BJP and decided to contest from Radhanpur. I was waiting for this moment. I told my party leadership that whoever gets the ticket from the Congress, I would ensure that Thakor loses. The party put faith in me and I kept my promise,” said Desai.
When asked about what worked in his favour, Desai said raising local issues while campaigning helped.
“There are over 132 villages that still don’t getting potable water and people are suffering a lot. Moreover, Thakor’s outfit, Thakor Sena, has already earned a bad name for itself in non-Thakor dominated villages and people were looking for an alternative. I told voters to choose between a ‘sevak’ (servant) and ‘Shahenshah’ (emperor). I noticed that Thakor had become arrogant and had stopped visiting his constituency. My appeal to voters worked well,” Desai said.
Desai, who belongs to the maldhari (pastoral) community, is the general secretary of the state Congress. Though he currently lives in Ahmedabad, he continues to raise his voice for local issues in his home turf.
According to Desai, one incident during the campaign became a turning point for him when members of Thakor Sena created trouble at a religious event and that didn’t go down well with many people.
“We had organised a community gathering at a temple when Thakor’s men interrupted it. They also threw dust into sweets that we had prepared for our guests and this turned out to be a turning point in my campaign trail and subsequent victory,” Desai said.
Before joining the Congress, Thakor had taken up social reform issues, such as de-addiction and anti-tobacco campaigns, and later emerged as an anti-BJP youth leader. Months before the Assembly elections in 2017, he joined the Congress and won from Radhanpur.
The politician, who belongs to the numerically powerful Thakor community in north Gujarat, emerged as a strong OBC voice against Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who in 2015, launched a quota agitation demanding reservation in jobs and education for his community members.
Thakor’s stature grew when the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi made him the party’s Bihar observer. However, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year, he joined the BJP along with his supporters.
Besides Thakor, another Congress leader, Dhavalsinh Zala, who too had jumped ship and contested on a BJP ticket in the by-election, has suffered a defeat at the hands of Congress’ Jasubhai Patel in Bayad constituency by a narrow margin of 743 votes.