Angry young men of 2017 expand electoral influence in Gujarat - Hindustan Times
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Angry young men of 2017 expand electoral influence in Gujarat

Dec 09, 2022 05:55 AM IST

Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani won the 2022 Gujarat assembly election, but with very different futures ahead of them

Hardik Patel. Alpesh Thakor. Jignesh Mevani.

BJP Supporters celebrating victor in Gujarat state election at BJP office in sector 33 Chandigarh on Friday, December 08, 2022. (Photo by Ravi Kumar / Hindustan Times)
BJP Supporters celebrating victor in Gujarat state election at BJP office in sector 33 Chandigarh on Friday, December 08, 2022. (Photo by Ravi Kumar / Hindustan Times)

The Congress’s fiery 2017 campaign that saw it challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its citadel, actually defeat the incumbent in the countryside and restrict it to double digits was headlined by these three young men – Patel then 24, the face of the Patidar quota agitation, Thakor then 37, the leader of a large backward group, and Mevani then 42, the flagbearer of Dalit communities seething at repeated acts of injustice.

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Patel was too young to fight the polls, but Mevani and Thakor won their elections and entered the assembly, ready to challenge the BJP.

Cut to 2022, and a lot has changed. Patel and Thakor have left the Congress, leaving only Mevani. On Thursday, all three of them won, but with very different futures ahead of them.

Patel quit the Congress in May 2022 and joined the BJP. He fought the elections from Viramgam, a Patidar-dominated seat near his village of Chandan Nagri, against sitting Congress MLA Lakhabhai Bharwad. On Thursday Patel won with a margin of over 51,000 seats.

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“The BJP government which is going to be formed, besides fulfilling the dreams of the people of Gujarat, is being formed on the developmental work carried out by this government. People trust us and they have showed that,” he said.

Thakor joined the BJP even before Patel, in June 2019. After resigning as a Congress MLA, he fought the Radhanpur seat on a BJP ticket in a bypoll and lost.

In 2022, he sought the Radhanpur seat again, but faced with protest from the local BJP unit, he was given the Gandhinagar South seat instead.

“The results are a befitting reply to all those who said anything about Gujarat. We were confident about the outcome of the election. This all has happened due to [PM] Modi’s charisma,” he said.

Mevani, who fought the Vadgam seat in 2017 as an Independent, won a close battle with a margin of 4,796 against Manibhai Vaghela of the BJP.

“I thank all the people from the bottom of my heart who despite all the attempts to sabotage my win and helped me win. I hope to serve my constituency with more vigour and zest,” Mevani told HT.

All three men now face very different futures but their victories show that as young leaders, they continue to hold salience. They will each have to carve out their niches outside the identities that made them so popular in 2017. Patel and Thakor are now part of a much larger BJP machine that has its own state leadership. Mevani, on the other hand, is among only a handful of Congress leaders left standing after a disastrous elections. Only time will determine if he is reduced to a figurehead or can play a meaningful role in an Opposition that is hopelessly outnumbered.

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