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A firebrand Congress MLA’s worry: Division of Thakor votes

Geniben Thakor has accused the BJP of fielding a candidate who has "nothing to do with the community or elections".

Geniben Thakor campaigns in Bhabhar taluka of Vav on Thursday. (Express Photo by Ritu Sharma)

From waving at villagers from the sunroof of her SUV to riding pillion at a motorbike rally, Congress MLA Geniben Thakor (46) has her own star value in the Bhabhar taluka of Vav Assembly constituency in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district.

“I am in my pihar (maternal village) today,” Thakor says in the village of Mera on Thursday morning as a crowd of women, not interested in what the other leaders at the event had to say, suddenly stand up and rush to listen to what their “daughter and sister” had to say. The firebrand Congress MLA plays to the gallery and goes on to say, “Vote for your daughter. I do not need to give a bhashan (lecture) about the BJP or the Congress in Mera village. Either I win or lose but I am always with you in your happiness or sorrow. There is not a single family in the village I have not personally reached out to during the Covid pandemic.”

“She is our daughter, the one who has made us proud,” says 80-year-old Chelaba Thakor, a villager who welcomed Geniben. Rekha Thakor, 15, a Class 9 dropout, remembers seeing Geniben a few months ago for the inauguration of the government high school.

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The MLA is lauded for being one the few vocal Congress legislators during Assembly sessions and for not shying away from raising her voice on women-related issues. She lost the 2012 election to Shankar Chaudhary of the BJP from Vav by more than 72,000 votes but defeated him five years later by a margin of over 6,600 votes. This time, Chaudhary has been shifted to the neighbouring Tharad Assembly constituency and the ruling party has fielded Swarupji Thakor.

Geniben, who is contesting her fourth Assembly election, appeals to the villagers about ensuring that Thakor votes do not get divided. “When two candidates from the same community are contesting the election, be careful that the community (Thakor) votes do not get split. You might, under society or community pressure, agree to give five votes to one candidate and three to the other from the family. I am requesting you to not fall under this trap,” says the legislator.

Village after village the Congress leader makes a similar appeal. “In 2012 too, the same thing happened. Chandulal (Thakkar) contested on an NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) ticket and was in the third position with over 30,000 votes. He did not win but wasted 20,000 votes from the community and 10,000 votes went to the BJP. If these votes had gone to me, I would not have lost,” says Geniben.

Accusing the BJP of attempting to split Thakor votes, she adds, “The BJP had many leaders from our community but giving the mandate (to Swarupji Thakor) overnight is only for the sake of contesting the election. He has nothing to do with the BJP or elections but only to split votes.”

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Gujarat State Co-operative Agri and Rural Development Bank member Kesardan P Gadhvi, accompanying Geniben on her campaign trail in Bhabhar, joins in. “Let us support and make Geniben and Jagdish Thakor (Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee President) strong by standing with them. Let us not divide the community votes into two and show them that Thakors are not that fool,” he says.

First published on: 26-11-2022 at 06:00 IST
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