By-elections for six Assembly constituencies in Gujarat, including Bayad, Radhanpur, Tharad, Lunawada, Kheralu and Amraiwadi concluded with three seats each to Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While Congress won Bayad in Sabarkantha district, Radhanpur in Patan district Tharad in Banaskkantha district in North Gujarat, BJP won Lunawada in Mahisagar district, Kheralu in Mehsana and Amraiwadi seats in Ahmedabad.
The by-elections in Rahdhanpur and Bayad seats were necessitated after MLA Alpesh Thakor and his close aide and MLA Vijaysinh Zala both quit Congress to join BJP. In Lunawada, Kheralu and Tharad, the seats fell vacant after their sitting MLAs got elected to Lok Sabha earlier this year.
Both Thakor and Zala lost their constituencies to Congress’s Raghubhai Desai and Jasubhai Patel, respectively. Congress’s Gulabsinh Rajput managed to win Tharad, a BJP stronghold, after 20 years.
Less than two years back, in the 2017 state Assembly polls, BJP had won 99 seats out of 182, the worst performance of the party since it first assumed power in Gujarat in 1995. However, in 2019, just ahead of Lok Sabha elections, four MLAs had quit Congress and joined BJP. Then, in the following bypolls, BJP had won all four seats taking its MLA count to 104.
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Out of the six seats that went to bypolls on October 21, four were won by BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections while rest two had gone to the Congress. After the latest bypolls, BJP’s MLA count has been reduced to 103 with Congress taking Tharad from BJP while retaining Radhanpur and Bayad.
“The people have rejected turncoats and reposed their faith in Congress. They are suffering from various issues like inflation and unemployment. The bypoll results are a reflection of their suffering,” Amit Chavda, president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee told the media.
Alpesh Thakor’s Rise and Fall
Alpesh Thakor, from the Thakor community—which constitutes a considerable voteshare in North Gujarat—came into limelight in 2015 as an emerging OBC leader while Hardik Patel was leading the Patidar agitation during the tenure of Anandiben Patel-led BJP government.
The OBC leader remained in news throughout the next few years with his campaigns against issues like bootlegging, in the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections. He, along with independent MLA and dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and Patel youth leader Hardik Patel, were recognised as the ‘trio’ who could cause considerable damage to BJP.
Consequently, Thakor joined Congress and contested won from Radhanpur constituency. His stature grew when Rahul Gandhi appointed him as AICC secretary in-charge of Bihar in August 2018. However, the OBC leader soon found himself in controversy in October 2018, when he was accused of instigating the Thakor Sena to attack North Indian migrants in Gujarat after a 14-month-old OBC girl was raped in North Gujarat.
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Subsequently, ending months of speculations of his ‘displeasure’ with the Congress, Thakor quit the party in April 2019 and joined BJP. In a setback to his political career, Thakor lost Radhanpur by 3,807 votes that he had won by a margin of over 80,000 in 2017.