Gujarat Key Constituencies: Radhanpur
In Radhanpur, a town in North Gujarat’s Patan district, it is the test of the strength of thirty five year old Alpesh Thakor. He, one the of the three young turks, other being Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani, who have challenged the might of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat this elections.
In the past Radhanpur assembly segment had also sent yet another challenger to the BJP’s might in the state, Shankarsinh Vaghela. It elected him to Gujarat assembly in early 1997 after he had split the BJP to form his own Rashtriya Janata Party then.
But as for Alpesh, who had set up an OBC,SC,ST Ekta Manch, is concerned, unlike Vaghela, he is a new face in state politics and only on the poll eve that he had joined the Congress party. He though has a political pedigree as his father was a Congress leader. In the last two years, he has rapidly climbed the political ladder by playing the OBC card.
Alpesh is up against many odds in Radhanpur. First many see him as an outsider. A video clip showing him vowing before the ‘Sun God’ that he would never enter politics too has been in circulation here. Besides, Lavingji Thakor, the BJP candidate against him too belongs to the same caste.
Alpesh’s candidature from the constituency has even created a rift within the Congress with local party workers protesting it. Obviously by fielding him from Radhanpur, the Congress had in mind its 67 per cent OBC population. However over 2,000 party workers protested angrily over his choice as they wanted Raghu Desai as their candidate. Desai was also the unanimous choice in a survey conducted by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
In 2012 assembly elections though, the Congress had fielded Bhavsinhji Dayaji Rathod who had then lost to the BJP’s Nagarji Thakor by a slender margin of 3834 votes. What is significant though is that this time the BJP has dropped its sitting MLA Nagarji Thakor, in favour of Lavingjiwho was originally a Congress leader, known to be a Vaghela supporter who had even vacated the Radhanpur seat for Vaghela.