Ahmedabad: Fashioned with the purpose of countering liquor addiction in dry Gujarat, a grouping of OBCs, SCs and STs on Tuesday held a show of strength under the umbrella of OSS Ekta Manch, telling the Gujarat government that it had not done enough for socially and economically backward people caught under the scourge of illicit liquor and deprivation.
Starting as a trickle, the Vyasan Mukti rally grew into a huge gathering at the sprawling GMDC Grounds at here, with its spearhead Alpesh Thakore, who is his in 30s, claiming it was not a political show but one that aimed at bringing together deprived sections of Gujarat on a single platform for their rights.
"This is a rally to fight addiction indeed, but also for empowerment and unity of people neglected in Gujarat. Though dispersed without a support structure, the OBCs are aggressive here, and if the Thakore community opens a third eye, it could be lethal," said Thakore, whose Thakore Ekta Sena has been quietly working in rural Gujarat for years.
Interestingly, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel wished well to the rally, as did Hardik Patel, the convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti which is demanding reservation for high caste Patels in jobs and education under the OBC category.
The rally had a conglomeration of other backward classes with a majority of Thakore and Kshatriya communities joined by Dalits and tribals.
"We are not with the BJP or the Congress, but wish progress for the OBCs," declared Thakore, a few months after a similar claim by Hardik Patel, whose father Bharat Patel is a BJP worker.
In his speech that lasted about half an hour, Thakore read out a pledge for the audience to fight addiction and come together to create a social and economic muscle that no one can ignore - like successive rulers have so far have.
"Social space, strong health and educational growth will be the result of de-addiction. If we have this no political party in Gujarat can give us the short shrift that we have been getting," he said.
"This is clarion call to you and this is my message to the political class in Gujarat," he said to widespread applause.
Coming exactly four months after a massive caste rally at the same location by the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti demanding reservation for high caste Patels in jobs and education under the OBC category disrupted the political firmament, the OSS Ekta Manch gave out a strong message that they also intend to become a force in state politics.
With Patel and now Thakore, a new socio-political order is seen to be emerging in Gujarat with voices that political parties would ignore at their peril.
Political analysts like Vidyut Joshi and Achyut Yagnik say the major reason for this is that neither Patel nor Thakore are believed to have personal political ambitions, and so their support bases see them as genuine.
The new grouping can emerge as counter to the Patel community, the youth of which has got together under the leadership of Patel, 23, over the past months - and sent the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party into panic.
After nearly three decades, the BJP faced an unexpected debacle in the local self-government bodies, with a major role in this outcome of the Patel community, which had otherwise been the backbone of the party's political strength in the state.