How a once sidelined ex-BJP youth wing leader won back favor with Modi and secured a ticket to Gujarat

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Ahmedabad: Of the 14 who have served as Chairman of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) since its inception in 1978, 13 have gone on to become MPs, MPs, Party Chairman, Chief Ministers, Governors or Union Ministers.

As the only BJYM president to remain outside the power ladder so far, Amit Thaker – who served as BJYM president from 2007 to 2010 – is an exception. However, Thaker is set to contest his first election since the assembly seat of Vejalpur in Ahmedabad district on a BJP ticket.

The BJYM is the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

During his more than 30-year political career, Thaker has courted the spotlight on several occasions, including when he led a statewide protest in Gujarat against the film. Fanawith actor Aamir Khan, but his closeness to BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Sanjay Joshi is said to have hampered his prospects.

Sitting in his modest home in Ahmedabad, Thaker told ThePrint: “I have carried out the duties entrusted to me by the party with honesty and commitment. Sometimes the Hawaii (the air) blows against you but the party elders recognize my work. This time I applied for the ticket locally and was surprised that the party chose me. In politics, it is never too late.

Saying that “ability to win is not a problem” in Vejalpur, which the BJP won in 2012 and 2017, Rashmi Kant Shah, the party’s assembly constituency official, said the minister for Inside the Union, Amit Shah, had “close ties with the constituents of Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad”.

« Kishorebhai Chauhan won both (Vejalpur) elections despite a large minority population here, but was denied a ticket due to opposition to the presidency and a new face was chosen in his place.

Vejalpur is an urban constituency, home to over 1 lakh Muslims and 2.6 lakh Hindus. By betting here on Thaker, the BJP hopes to retain Vejalpur and revive the political fortunes of its forgotten leader Yuva Morcha.

“Thaker fell victim to infighting among party elders, but never expressed his views in public and continued to work for the party. His patience and loyalty started paying off after 2014 when Modi became prime minister and was given a different organizational role,” a Gujarat BJP leader said.

Adding, “He (Thaker) has been praised for making inroads into the tribal belt of the state, especially Bhavnagar as BJP district official. He was later inducted as BJP Secretary of State when Jitu Vaghani was appointed Gujarat BJP President in 2016. Amit Shah even deployed him (Thaker) to West Bengal but a party ticket seemed out of reach until here.


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Fana protests, relationship with Modi

The year was 2002 and Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was contesting his first election to the Rajkot West assembly. Yuva Morcha’s Gujarat unit of the BJP demanded a ticket for its then chairman, Thaker, but the request was denied by the Gujarat BJP leader, Rajendra Singh Rana.

Thaker then came into the limelight in 2006 when he led protests vs. Aamir Khan-starring Fana on the actor’s public support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by activist Medha Patkar who had upset then Gujarat CM Modi. Then 35, Thaker even tore down posters of the film in public, while ensuring he was photographed in action.

Yuva Morcha activists led by Thaker staged protests across the state, threatening to halt the film’s release unless Khan issued an apology. The Multiplex Association of Gujarat gave in to the demands and decided do not filter the film fearing attacks on cinemas.

Thaker’s role in the protests caught the attention of Rajnath Singh who, upon his nomination as BJP president in 2007, chose him to replace Dharmendra Pradhan as president of Yuva Morcha.

But as Thaker’s graph in politics rose, his equation with Modi plunged. Among the reasons for this was that Thaker was a protege of former BJP national executive member Sanjay Joshi, who shared a turbulent relationship with Modi.

During these years, Gujarat CM Modi’s relationship with BJP top brass, especially Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj, was not as smooth as it seemed, despite which he managed to sideline Keshubhai Patel and removed Sanjay Joshi from the party’s national executive.

Thaker, who had a fringe interest in Gujarat politics, was considered the ‘Delhi man’ in the state due to his closeness to Joshi and Rajnath Singh.

A Gujarat BJP source, recalling a party election committee meeting held to decide the names of candidates for the 2007 Gujarat assembly elections, said a party leader had recommended Thaker’s name. Modi told then party chairman Rajnath Singh that “he (Thaker) is a national leader and can be sent from anywhere in India but should not be given a ticket from Gujarat,” added The source.

Thaker expected a promotion to party secretary when Nitin Gadkari took over as BJP chairman in 2010. However, Varun Gandhi – backed by the then late RSS leader KS Sudarshan – was appointed secretary instead, and Thaker was replaced by Anurag Thakur. – backed by former Union finance minister the late Arun Jaitley – as chairman of the Yuva Morcha.

Thaker was ready to take the political leap given his experience with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – the student wing of the BJP – but never had the chance. He had thrown his hat in the ring in 2007, but the party decided not to give him a ticket for the Gujarat assembly polls. He was again overlooked for a ticket in 2012, but appointed co-organizer of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP), the party’s diaspora wing.

Since then, he has also served as BJP official for Anand and Bhavnagar districts.

BJYM Presidents – where are they now

Kalraj Mishra, who was the first president of BJYM from 1978 to 1980, is now the governor of Rajasthan. His successor Satya Deo Singh, who later became an MP, held the post until 1986, when it was passed to Pramod Mahajan, who later became a minister in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.

Mahajan was succeeded as BJYM chairman by Rajnath Singh, who became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, chairman of the BJP and is now India’s defense minister. After Rajnath, the office was filled by JP Nadda, who has served as the BJP National Chairman since 2019.

In 1994, Nadda was replaced by Uma Bharti, who became the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Bharti handed over to Ramashish Rai, who served as the leader of BJYM until 2000 when he was succeeded by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, now Madhya Pradesh CM, a post he held three times in the past.

Chauhan’s successors, G. Kishan Reddy, Dharmendra Pradhan and Anurag Thakur are all ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.

Tejasvi Surya, the incumbent chairman of Yuva Morcha, is the MP for Bengaluru South, while his predecessor Poonam Mahajan is the MP for Mumbai North Central. Meanwhile, former BJYM leader Ramashish Rai served one term as an MP and another as an MLC in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council respectively.

Thaker, the only BJYM president who has never held elected office, is now looking to take the next step in his political journey.

(Editing by Amrtansh Arora)


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