With the baton changing hands at the Centre, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) is very likely to witness a change of guard at the helm. This probability seems inevitable irrespective of the grand old party's performance in the state in the current Lok Sabha elections. If the buzz in the concerned circles is anything to go by, the race for the top post is between member of parliament Jagdish Thakor and former GPCC presidents, Bharat Solanki and Siddharth Patel.
The coveted post lay vacant when incumbent president Arjun Modhwadia had tendered his resignation following the party's debacle in 2012 assembly elections. Though it was not accepted by the party high command in New Delhi, rumours flying thick and fast couple of months ahead of the parliamentary elections suggested that a change in local leadership is on Congress's anvil. Rumours also pinned hopes on either Jagdish Thakor, MP from Patan or former president of GPCC, Siddharth Patel, to be given the key post.
Though the prospects of the three contenders seem to mired in suspension for the time being, local pundits, however, give more weightage to either of the former presidents to have better chances of being elected to the top post.
Thakor, whose political roots in Navnirman Andolan as a student leader began when he joined the revolution as a teenager studying in a higher secondary school in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Then as luck would have it, Congress candidate from Kapadvanj, Fulsinh denied contesting election at last moment giving Thakor a chance to contest directly in the 1998 parliamentary elections.. However, he lost the battle to BJP's Jaysinh Chauhan by around 39,000 votes.
However, his reputation among Thakor community and involvement in educational activities soon fetched him a berth in Gujarat Assembly from Dehgam seat in 2002, even amid the saffron wave. He could also secure the seat in 2007 assembly elections as well, but resigned from it after he won the Patan parliamentary seat in 2009.
The sitting MP had to publicly support Bhavsinh Rathod, another Thakor community leader's candidature from the Patan seat and decided not to contest the elections. Jagdish Thakor, however, travelled all over Gujarat to woo Kshatriya community voters to make his claim for the post stronger.
But, if insiders are to be believed, another section within the party believe that he might have to remain contented with post of general secretary in All India Congress Committee. The rival group alleges him of taking arbitrary decisions while selecting candidates for the seven assembly constituencies of Patan district. Moreover, his alleged involvement in anti-party activities, though secretively, may mar his chances, said sources close to development.
In such a scenario the two former presidents of GPCC – Bharat Solanki and Siddharth Patel – could get one more chance provided the party high command does not go for a green horn. But sources say that Patel had denied the offer as he wants some more time to rebuild the party in the state.
Supporters of Union minister of state for drinking water and sanitation, Bharat Solanki, believe that the party at present needs someone with strong organisational skills, which Solanki had ably demonstrated in the past. “The new president will have nearly 18 months before majority of the municipal corporations, zilla and taluka panchayats' elections are announced. It will be a big challenge for the new president to ensure good performance of the party in the urban areas, which is stronghold of the BJP,” sources added.