After holding separate protests against the Gujarat government over the demands of their respective communities, firebrand leaders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor appear to be joining hands ahead of the 2017 state polls.
Their bonhomie was on full display on Sunday when Kshatriya Thakor Sena (KTS), led by Other Backward Class (OBC) leader Thakor, held an anti-liquor rally and demanded stricter prohibition laws in the state. Thakor was joined by Dalit leader Mevani, while Hardik, who is at the helm of the Patidar quota stir, also extended his “full support” to the drive.
“Patels and the Patidar Ananmat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) support the KTS when it comes to a fight against evils like liquor addiction and the government’s lack of will to implement prohibition strictly’’, Hardik said.
The KTS also pressed for more employment opportunities for youth in local industries.
At the rally, Thakor felicitated several of his community leaders for their efforts in the upliftment of the members of the backward community. During the same ceremony, he also honoured Mevani even though he is a Dalit leader and not a part of the OBC stir.
Although their recent camaraderie has set political circles abuzz, none of the three leaders are willing to give their ‘alliance’ a political colour.
“The one who will support the community’s demand will be the next chief minister of Gujarat,” Thakor said.
If Hardik, Mevani and Thakor do decide to form a political fold then the BJP could face difficulty in regaining power in 2017.
The Patels form 14% of Gujarat’s population and have traditionally backed the BJP. But the state government’s refusal to grant the community an OBC status and Hardik’s meteoric rise has distanced Patidars from the right-wing party. The OBCs, SCs and STs constitute nearly 40% of state’s population while the Dalits form 7% of Gujarat’s demography.
The BJP suffered heavy losses in 2015 local body elections that were held against the backdrop of the Patidar stir.