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23 October 2017, 02:24 | Colleen Roy
Gujarat Pradesh Congress committee president Bharatsinh Solanki at a press conference on Saturday
"Unlike the Congress, we have a string of well-entrenched community leaders across Gujarat".
"Rahul Gandhi would be coming to our rally on Oct 23 and I will join the Congress party", Thakor, who has emerged as the OBC face in Gujarat, said in New Delhi after a meeting with Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi. Thakor's decision came within hours of Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki's invitation to the three "Young Turks" of state politics, Alpesh Thakor, Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani and Patidar leader Hardik Patel to join the party. Responding to the offer, Hardik said: "Although I believe we must unite against the BJP, this is not a BJP-Congress election". Thakore had also met BJP chief Amit Shah some time ago before he made his announcement yesterday after meeting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti has been protesting against the ruling BJP-led government with demands of reservation for Patidar community.
The BJP, which has announced a Non-Reserved Category Educational and Economic Development Board and Commission to placate the agitators, has been portraying Patel as a "Congress agent".
Alpesh Thakur joined the party assuring that Hardik will be working with the Congress to defeat BJP. Mr Vasava had supported Congress in the Rajya Sabha elections held in August. Technically, Hardik Patel can not contest elections as he is underage. "We are also ready to give him a ticket if he wants to fight elections in the future", Solanki said. He said: "If Congress supports our issues, we will support the party to the hilt".
Congress, however, has not stopped at that since it has also invited like-minded parties and leaders including Aam Aadmi Party and Chhotu Vasava, a tribal deader and JD (U) MLA. "We could not have conceded so much to an outsider as the Congress, which has been out of power for over 22 years and has seen desertion by its top leaders", a BJP leader said, noting that its pre-eminent leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hails from an OBC caste.
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