It was a win for the leaders of two prominent communities in Gujarat in the Assembly elections on Monday.
Congress candidate Alpesh Thakor, the face of the Kshatriya-Thakor community in the state, won the Radhanpur seat, defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Solanki Lavingi Muljiji Thakor by a margin of 14,857 votes. Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, an independent candidate, won from the Vadgam constituency with 19,696 votes more than BJP candidate Vijay Chakravarti.
The Congress had pinned its hopes of defeating the BJP on both Thakor and Mevani, besides Patidar leader Hardik Patel. Changing its earlier strategy, the party had given Patel, Thakor and Mevani a free hand to campaign on their own. The trio had ripped into the Gujarat model of development by highlighting the problems that their communities face in the state. The three came to be seen as the main Opposition leaders in Gujatat.
Thakor, who is the convener of the Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena and the OBC SC ST Ekta Manch, had joined the Congress in October. Other Backwar Classes in Gujarat constitute about 40% of the state’s population, while the Thakor community represents about 20% to 22% of it.
Thakor first shot to prominence after he launched a protest against liquor consumption in January 2016. In the run up to the elections, he had made lack of educational opportunities the focal point of his campaign.
Mevani emerged as the face of the Dalit resistance in Gujarat after cow vigilantes flogged four youths from a Scheduled Caste community in Una in July 2016, which led to a statewide agitation. The Vadgam seat from where he contested was reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. The Congress had supported Mevani by not fielding any candidate from Vadgam.