Ahmedabad: Over the past couple of years, three young leaders from the Patidar, OBC and Dalit communities have made quite an impact in Gujarat, so much so that the state BJP is worried and making notes to tackle them. While Hardik Patel, convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and Jignesh Mevani, convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch have openly declared their anti-BJP stand, Alpesh Thakor, convener of the Kshatriya Thakor Sena, is yet to reveal his cards.
OBCs account for about 51 percent of the Gujarat population and are likely to impact as many as 110 seats out of the 182 in Gujarat Assembly.
The feisty Patidar youth has always maintained that he will not join any political party until his demand for reservation is met. However, it does look like the staunch supporters of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti is inclined towards the Congress as Hardik Patel and his supporters have made it very apparent that they will vote against the BJP in the forthcoming Assembly elections.
While the BJP government has tried everything to woo back the Patidar community, like that of withdrawing the police cases against Patidar leaders, PAAS continues to be adamant with its quota demand.
On the other hand, Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch convener Jignesh Mevani has a different issue to talk about. He maintains that apart from the BJP, no other political party in Gujarat or India speaks of a Hindu Rashtra, adding that the BJP is a “political wing of the RSS”.
"We will strongly oppose any attempt to tamper with the Preamble of the Constitution that classifies India as a democratic, socialist and secular republic," Mevani told News18.
He further stated that politically, Dalits and Muslims have always formed an axis and voted consistently for decades.
"Assuming that the pattern continues, Dalits and Muslims can have an impact on as many as 25 seats in the Gujarat Assembly elections. While Dalits constitute just 7 percent of the population in Gujarat and might appear politically insignificant, but nationally, we account for 17 percent of the population," Mevani said.
Asked if the three of them could ever join hands and work together towards a common goal, Mevani said, "Yes it is true that the Dalits have had problems with other OBCs and the Patels in the past, but as Dalits, we are willing to overlook them and work together.”
When the demand for reservation by Patidars within the OBC quota was at its peak in Gujarat, the OBCs had voiced resentment at the idea as they would have to share the reservation pie with the Patidars. Similarly, Dalits have had problems with all other castes over the issue of discrimination and atrocities.
On the other hand, Alpesh Thakor, convener of the OBC, SC and ST (OSS) Ekta Manch and Kshatriya Thakor Sena, has remained non-committal so far about his political future.
The son of a local Congress leader, Alpesh addressed a huge gathering of people and launched his statewide de-addiction campaign for the OBCs in January 2016. This was followed by a large number of raids on gambling and liquor dens across the state.
"I will announce all my future plans, including my political plans on October 23 at the Janadesh Sammelan being organised at Gandhinagar. Our issues are not against any ideology or political party," Thakor told News18.
When probed on the differences between the OBCs, Patidars and Dalits over several issues and the three young turks coming together, Thakor said, "As Gujaratis, we are one. We can surely work together where common issues are concerned."