AHMEDABAD, Gujarat: Congress MLA from Gujarat, Alpesh Thakor, has accused Gujarat Deputy chief minister, and Bharatiya Janta Party member, Nitin Patel of planning the attacks that resulted in a hasty exodus of over 50,000 migrant workers from the state.
Patel has strongly refuted the allegations and claimed that Thakor has been trying to divert attention from the fact that many hold Thakor responsible for the violence.
A month after the rape of a baby girl brought the state on edge, revived memories of the 2002 communal riots, and knocked down Gujarat's carefully cultivated image of a prosperous law-abiding investment destination, the BJP and Congress lined up to accuse each other of fomenting the violence.
While hundreds of members of Alpesh Thakor's Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena were arrested for participating in the attacks on migrant workers, Thakor himself has claimed that the violence was part of an elaborate conspiracy by deputy Nitin Patel to usurp the current Chief Minister Vijay Rupani's office.
Nitin Patel has always been perceived to be an aspirant for the Chief Minister's post in Gujarat since Narendra Modi vacated the post after being elected as an MP.
In 2016, when the then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel offered to resign, Nitin Patel was being considered the frontrunner for the post. However, the then state BJP chief Vijay Rupani pipped Patel to become the CM. When the BJP came back to power after a narrow victory in 2017 assembly elections, Rupani was retained as the CM and Patel as the deputy CM. But Patel skipped his office for several days reportedly upset over getting "less significant portfolios".
"The conspirators wanted to create a law and order issue which could lead to a change of leadership in the state," Thakor told HuffPost India. "Gujarat deputy CM wants power. He instigated people. The violence began in his constituency which shows that this happened because of (someone's) political ambitions and greed. Since he (Patel) is the deputy CM, he must be aspiring to become the CM. Those, who harbour Chief Ministerial ambitions, hatched this conspiracy."
Thakor claimed that his and his organisation's agenda is to protect the constitutional rights of the people.
"There was an attempt to project us as the enemy of poor people and backwards. But they did not succeed," Thakor said. "The rumors on social media might have created a vicious atmosphere but these are all our people who had been living with us. I also belong to a community of the poor, labourers, farmers and backwards. How can I fight against our own people? We are united now but some politicians tried to create a rift and vitiate this atmosphere. It was a political conspiracy."
When asked about the arrests of some members of his organisation for attacks on migrants, he said, "Our boys were implicated in false cases but they have come out of jail now. No officer bearer of Thakor Sena was involved (in attacks)."
Patel, the Deputy Chief Minister, said Thakor's allegations were baseless and claimed that the state government has proof of Thakor's involvement in attacks on migrants.
" It was his conspiracy and entire Gujarat knows that. He had been instigating local people against the migrants," Patel said told HuffPost India. "He had been organising protests against companies for providing jobs to migrants. It was also clearly mentioned in their manifesto. He has given many memorandums to the government demanding jobs for locals."
When asked as to why has there been no action against Thakor if his involvement was so evident, Patel said that it is for the Chief Minister and state home minister of Gujarat to decide.
"It's not my subject. I am the deputy CM but this decision has to be taken by the CM and Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja. I am not bothered about it," the Deputy CM of Gujarat added.
A senior BJP leader from Gujarat told this reporter on the condition of anonymity that the state government is keeping every record of Thakor's statements and there will be an action at an "appropriate time".
The state unit of the Congress has also said that the state government is free to act against its members if if they are found to be involved in the attacks on migrants.
A Congress leader from Sabarkantha district, where the 14-month-old girl child was raped, thinks that this entire episode has caused an irreparable damage to industries in Gujarat.
Vijay Pratap Singh, who runs a social organisation for the welfare Hindi Speaking migrants, said that he is also considering moving back to his native state Uttar Pradesh at some point of time in future.
"The memories of whatever happened (earlier this month) will always be on every migrant worker's mind," he told HuffPost India.