Ahmedabad. As the BJP gears of for the Gujarat elections to come back to power for its sixth term, three energetic youth – Hardik Patel (24), Jignesh Mevani (36) and Alpesh Thakor (40) – have emerged as huge obstacles on its way.
They have consistently opposed the BJP government in Gujarat for its alleged anti-people policies for the last few years and have now created a political atmosphere not conducive to the ruling party.
Who are these youth and what are their backgrounds? Here is how they came up to be leaders of their communities in the last few years.
HARDIK PATEL: Born on July 20, 1993, Hardik belongs to the politically powerful Patidar community that comprises at least 12% of Gujarat’s voters. His father Bharat used to have a small business of fixing submersible pumps in underground water wells in Viramgam town.
He was an average student but an excellent orator. In 2012, he joined the Sardar Patel Group, an organisation of Patidar youth. In 2015, his sister failed to qualify for a government scholarship though having secured more marks than her friends from Other Backward Classes. It was one of the triggers that made Hardik to form the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) to fight for reservation in jobs for community youth. A rally called by him that year attracted over a lakh of Patidar youth to Ahmedabad.
As the state government tried to crackdown on PAAS, it has become one of the biggest platforms against the BJP, which had all along enjoyed unflinching support of the powerful community.
JIGNESH MEVANI: Born on December 11, 1982 in Ahmedabad, Jignesh is a lawyer and social activist leading a movement for the rights of Dalits.
A native of Meu in Mehsana district of Gujarat, Jignesh did his graduation in English literature in 2003 from a college in Ahmedabad. Subsequently, he did a diploma course in journalism and mass communication, and also graduated in law.
Following attacks on Dalits in Una village in Saurashtra allegedly by cow protection vigilante groups, Jignesh led one of the biggest Dalit protest march comprising over 20,000 people, including a large number of women, from Ahmedabad to Una. During the march the Dalits pledged not to remove cow carcasses.
ALPESH THAKOR: Alpesh’s family has been involved in the state politics at the grassroots level for a long time. But for the past seven years, he has been heading the Gujarat OBC, SC, ST Ekta Manch (OSS in short), a social organisation to safeguard the interest of the Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. He is also a relentless campaigner of prohibition among the community people as he believes they will develop in real sense if they give up liquor.
On October 23, Alpesh joined the Congress in the presence of Rahul Gandhi during a rally by the party in Gandhinagar. He said he chose Gandhi because he listened to the voice of the poor people.