Congress gets a boost ahead of Gujarat polls as OBC leader Alpesh Thakor to join party

Ahmedabad: The Congress reached out to opposition parties in Gujarat on October 21 with an eye on an anti-BJP front and received a shot in the arm as other backward class (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor said he will join the party.
The party is also confident of securing the support of Hardik Patel, the 24-year-old leader leading the influential Patidar community’s stir for reservation in education and jobs.
The Congress is trying to get Dalit rights campaigner and lawyer Jignesh Mevani on board too.
Both leaders are vocal critics of the BJP government in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, where assembly elections are due this winter.
The moves are aimed at boosting the Congress’s prospects in a state where the party is out of power for 22 years.
Mevani, at 36, is a young leader such as Patel and is spearheading a movement for Dalits, who comprise about 8% of the state’s population.
The 39-year-old Thakor, who heads the OBC, ST, SC Ekta Manch and founder of the Gujarat Kshatriya-Thakor Sena, announced his intentions after meeting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi.
“Rahul Gandhi will take part in our rally on October 23 and I will join the Congress,” he told reporters.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, who recently won a hard-fought battle for a Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat, party general secretary in-charge of the state Ashok Gehlot, Congress state unit chief Bharatsinh Solanki were among leaders who attended the crucial meeting.
Thakor had ruled out any support to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which too is planning big for the Gujarat elections. He said the people have only two options — the BJP or Congress.
His organizations have carried out booth management exercises in 182 assembly constituencies.
The developments came a day before Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bharuch to inaugurate a ferry service between Ghogha in Saurashtra and Dahej in south Gujarat.
The Election Commission has not announced the poll schedule but officials indicated the counting of votes in Gujarat will be held on December 18 along with Himachal Pradesh, the other state going to the polls.
The Congress has accused the poll panel of delaying announcing the poll dates under pressure from the BJP. For its part, the BJP alleged that the opposition party was questioning the commission’s judgment.

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