After days of "will he, won't he", fiery Gujarat politician Alpesh Thakor quit the Congress today, delivering a big blow to the party just a day before the start of the national election.
The outspoken lawmaker, a prominent OBC (Other Backward Classes) leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, had joined the Congress just before the 2017 Gujarat election.
Congress sources had been expecting the announcement for months. There was speculation that Alpesh Thakor was unhappy with the party's Gujarat leadership as he did not get a seat of his choice. There were also reports that the 43-year-old was in discussions to cross over to the BJP. He denied it today.
"I will not join the BJP. I and my two MLAs (legislators Dhavalsinh Thakor and Bharatji Thakor, who also quit the Congress) will complete our five-year tenure," he said.
Alpesh Thakor reportedly wanted to contest from the Patan parliamentary constituency but the Congress chose former MP Jagdish Thakor.
Alpesh Thakor's Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena reportedly gave him an ultimatum, saying he had to quit after the outfit had decided to end its ties with the Congress. The group was reportedly angry because it had been snubbed by the Congress over its demand to contest the Sabarkantha seat.
The outfit's core committee met on Tuesday night and, after deciding to end its alliance with the Congress, urged Alpesh Thakor to quit within 24 hours.
Alpesh Thakor heads the outfit but was not present at the meeting.
Along with independent lawmaker Jignesh Mewani and Patidar campaigner Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor constituted the triad of young leaders who rose to prominence during the Gujarat election campaign.
The political newbie won from Radhanpur seat in Patan district.
Amid exit buzz, he recently met with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and conveyed his displeasure against the functioning of the party's Gujarat leadership.
Alpesh Thakor, say sources, claimed his community and supporters were feeling "cheated" and "ignored". He is believed to have said that some "weak leaders" were in charge in Gujarat.
Hardik Patel joined the Congress last month, but he cannot contest the national election for now because of his conviction in a case of rioting.