Congress MLA and prominent OBC leader of Gujarat, Alpesh Thakor, on Monday claimed his community and supporters were feeling "cheated" and "ignored", in remarks seen as a criticism of the state leadership of the opposition party preparing for the Lok Sabha polls.
Without taking any names, he said some "weak leaders" were at the helm of party affairs in Gujarat, an apparent reference to state party president Amit Chavda.
The BJP quickly latched on Mr Thakor's critical comments and said Congress MLAs not happy in the party were welcome to join the ruling outfit.
In an open threat to the state party leadership, Mr Thakor said he will now play politics like a "shrewed person" as he claimed some party leaders in Gujarat were trying to "suppress" him and his Thakor community.
While senior Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki tried to play down Mr Thakor's remarks, Gujarat BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the main opposition party will be divided into several groups in the "near future".
Asked if he would join the ruling BJP, Mr Thakor replied in the negative, saying he is confident Congress president Rahul Gandhi will take necessary action after listening to his grievances.
"I feel my community is being ignored. My community is not being given proper representation in the party. We are being blamed for anything bad that happens in the state.
"I will not sit quiet or continue as an MLA if my people gets nothing," Thakor told media persons here. The popular OBC leader from the Thakor community was inducted into the Congress ahead of the December 2017 assembly polls in Mr Gandhi's presence.
Mr Thakor, who heads community outfit ''Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena'', was subsequently given a Congress ticket and he won from the Radhanpur assembly seat in Patan district.
"This is not about joining BJP. My fight is against the system (in the party).
"What you (Congress leaders) want to prove by ignoring and suppressing a mass leader like me? The Congress can win 9 to 10 Lok Sabha seats (out of 26 in Gujarat) only if strong leaders are given important responsibilities," said Mr Thakor.
The young OBC leader then headed to Delhi to make a representation to Mr Gandhi.
"My community and supporters are feeling cheated. We have not received anything for joining Congress. Our respect is not maintained in the party.
"We are sidelined. I am going to Delhi today to make Rahuljee aware about what is going on here," said Ms Thakor to reporters before leaving for the national capital.
Mr Thakor said the Congress will not fare well in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls under the current state leadership.
"Some weak persons are leading the party in Gujarat. They can never win seats in the Lok Sabha polls. You will need a strong leader.
"Lakhs of youths are with me. But, they are being ignored by some party leaders. I think the time has come I have to do politics like a shrewd person," he said.
Commenting on Mr Thakor's barbs, Mr Solanki, a former Gujarat Congress chief and a relative of Mr Chavda, claimed the media is making "speculation" about the first-time MLA.
"Alpesh is a seasoned leader and we all will work together to make the party victorious in the Lok Sabha polls. He is also trying to strengthen the party.
"The Congress is a huge party and its natural that some small things happen. The media is blowing it out of proportion," Mr Solanki claimed.
Nitin Patel said Congress MLAs like Mr Thakor wanting to defect are "welcome in the BJP".
"Some Congress leaders are trying to dominate others. One group is trying to dominate other. The opposition party is divided in many groups. The party will see a huge division in the near future," Mr Patel told media persons.
"Some Congress MLAs are getting attracted towards BJP, as the MLAs feel it will help the people of their constituencies in getting the work done.
"Congress MLAs who want to serve their people in a better way are always welcome in the BJP," Mr Patel added.
Earlier last month, Mr Thakor along with some other disgruntled party leaders and legislators had met at the residence of senior leader Arjun Modhwadia and expressed dissatisfaction over the functioning of the GPCC leadership.
The meeting was held following the heavy Congress defeat in assembly by-election in Jasdan, a seat in Rajkot district held by the main opposition party for decades.
At that time too, Mr Thakor, referring to Mr Chavda, had said "some lacuna" existed in the leadership which needs to be corrected before the Lok Sabha polls.
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