Attack on migrants in Gujarat: Panicky Alpesh softens stand as rowdy Thakor Sena imperils Congress prospects in UP, Bihar

Gujarat Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor has changed his tone on the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh migrant issue. He is now trying to strike a conciliatory note, almost saying they all are welcome in the state and claiming that thousands of those who left the state in the past few days didn’t flee under duress or under threat to life but have gone to their native places to celebrate Chhat Puja, which is over a month away.

File image of Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor. Getty Images

File image of Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor. Getty Images

The sudden change in his public attitude is noteworthy. He is supposed to be the one who instigated his supporters on Gujarati versus Bihari and UPites after the most unfortunate incident of rape of a minor. The timing of Thakor’s change of heart is curious. It came after a severe crackdown by the police against those who were fanning hatred and violence against migrants and indulged in rioting at premises which employed workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

It also came after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath took up the matter with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani and accused the Congress of supporting the miscreants. Since Monday afternoon the three BJP-NDA ruled states started acting in tandem in building right public perception and pinning Congress down over the issue.

It is not difficult to understand what made Thakor reverse his position in a few days. Most of over 400 persons arrested by the Gujarat Police are from Thakor community, belonging to Thakor Sena patronised by Thakor. Some of those arrested are Congress workers. The arrests and the charges under which the miscreants were booked were stringent, which included rioting and dacoity. This leads to a situation where Thakor’s supporters may turn against him -- it is very difficult for the accused persons to get bail when booked under these charges. If they remain in jail for some time there is a possibility that he may face flak from family and close supporters of those booked under relevant provisions of law.

That’s certainly not a healthy situation for Thakor. His core support base is from his community Thakor. The community was angry after a minor girl from the community was allegedly raped by a worker from Bihar. The MLA took their anger to a new high but it now appears that it spiralled out of control. The state agencies after initial softness decided to deal with the emerging situation with a heavy hand. That complicated Thakor’s problem. He can ill-afford any anguish of his own community members against him. The business community was very unhappy with the current disturbances and are turning against Thakor Sena and its backers in Congress.

Mark Thakor’s statement on Tuesday. In an interview to Republic TV, he admitted that “some mistakes” may have been made by his supporters and that Thakor Sena followers “may have threatened some”. Then he let out his concerns “the attempt to frame my men has begun…attempts are being made to defame my Thakor Sena”.

Second, there was a belated realisation in Congress that the party does not have to fight election only in Gujarat. It was a national party and has to take care of sentiments of people in other states. Even in Gujarat, only a small section of people are sympathetic of those attempting to chase away migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Though the party leadership was promoting Thakor in party’s hierarchical structure the emerging situation was a grim reminder that he couldn’t be trusted in handling situations like this which have short and long-term implications in Gujarat and in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where Congress is desperately trying to find a foothold.

It was also turning Congress its oft-repeated charge against BJP that the latter was creating an atmosphere of fear and hatred on its head.

More so, Thakor along with Shaktisinh Gohil is Congress’ central party in-charge of Bihar. The central and state leadership of the Congress was hoping that in alliance with Lalu Yadav’s RJD, the party would be able to improve its tally in 2019 parliamentary elections. Remember, in 2015 JD(U)-RJD- Congress had managed to win elections on Bihari versus Bahri plank. Now Nitish Kumar and JD(U) is on BJP’s side, the pictures of Biharis being forced to flee Gujarat by Thakor’s men could badly hurt Congress’ prospects.

In Uttar Pradesh Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have dumped Congress out of Mahagathbandhan (grand coalition) and the party does not have any realistic hope beyond Amethi and Raebareli. Thakor’s perceived villainous act against migrants from Uttar Pradesh could make Congress’ prospects even worse.


Updated Date: Oct 10, 2018 09:03 AM

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