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The angry young men of Gujarat of 2017 have taken a new path. Will the Troika be Hardik-Alpesh-Jignesh Trump Card?

On a balmy afternoon in August 2015, a 22-year-old stunned the BJP government when he gathered lakhs of Patidars to the GMDC grounds in the heart of Ahmedabad, seeking a reservation for his politically influential community.

Supported by the demonstrators, mostly youths, the youth openly challenged the then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to walk towards him and end the standoff in the reserve. A police crackdown and his arrest later, a new chapter in the state’s political history was written.

Hardik Patel became the vortex of Gujarat politics ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections. He and his stubborn reservation demand left the BJP behind. Hardik was responsible for narrowing BJP below 100 in the polls, wreaking most of the damage in the politically important Saurashtra region where Patidars hold sway. The Congress managed to secure 28 seats, an addition of 15 at the expense of the BJP.

Nearly seven years later, as the reserve’s unrest loses its sting and Hardik switches to the side he vowed to “decimate” in 2017, the BJP appears to be breathing easy ahead of the 2022 polls. may have lost the zest and momentum he had in 2017, but he is still an important Patel voice who could have continued to influence the BJP,” said a senior party leader.

Hardik joined the Congress in 2019 despite opposition from some of his close associates at the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which he had founded to lead the upheaval on the reserve. Although he became the working president, his stay in the party lasted only two years after serious disagreements with the party leadership. The BJP courted him and got him on board. Hardik will fight from Viramgam in Saurashtra. The BJP not only hopes to take the constituency from Congress, but hopes that its presence will affect the Patidar-dominated areas of Saurashtra.

Barely two hours away from Hardik constituency, almost the same story plays out in Gandhinagar South constituency where Alpesh Thakore is competing for a BJP ticket. Like Hardik, Alpesh was also a spanner in the works of BJP’s march to victory in Gujarat.

Thakore, a strong OBC leader in North Gujarat, founded the Kshatriya Thakor Sena in 2011, but came to limelight when he started a campaign to rid his community of alcohol addiction. Like Hardik, his stir was also aimed at the state government and had some impact on BJP’s fortunes in a few seats in North Gujarat in 2017. He himself ran for a congressional ticket and won against Radhanpur constituency. But a lot of water has flowed since then.

Now Alpesh is one of the prominent OBC faces of the BJP in the North Gujarat region, where his community is key to winning seats. “For striking a delicate caste balance, having him on board has a great advantage. The OBCs won’t feel like we’re just courting the Patidars. Alpesh can not only win the seat for us but also influence other neighboring seats in the region,” said a BJP leader in North Gujarat.

A little further north, the third member of the troika to ever influence the BJP has not crossed. Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani, 41, is running as a congressional candidate from Vadgam constituency. In 2017, he had contested as an independent and with Congress tactically avoiding putting a candidate in that seat, Mewani had won. He had joined Hardik and Alpesh in the campaign to target the BJP ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections. He is still going, but with the Congress party in shambles in the state, it remains to be seen to what extent he would be able to win the Dalit vote.

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