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Dec 29, 2017 07:05 PM IST | Source:

Faceless in 2016, poster boys in 2017 — politicians who rose up the ranks this year

The year gone by saw the emergence of many new faces in Indian politics, some of whom have left a lasting mark. Here is a look at some of the rising stars of Indian politics in 2017.

The year gone by was an important one for Indian politics and one that could affect its future of for decades to come. Be it the Gujarat election, the Bihar election or the political drama in Tamil Nadu, a feature common to most major political events in the country this year was the emergence of new faces.

If we take a look at our history after independence, there have been a few years now and then that saw important political figures rising to prominence. The years 1975 and 1976, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had declared emergency in the country, saw the emergence of leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, George Fernandes, Parkash Singh Badal, LK Advani and Subramanian Swamy.

When looked at with an eye towards the future, 2017 seemed to be that kind of year for leaders like Yogi Aditynath, TTV Dhinakaran, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor, among others. So as we bid goodbye to the year gone by, let us take a look at some of the political leaders who rose to prominence over the last 12 months.

Jignesh Mevani

Much to the chagrin of BJP leaders, 37-year-old independent candidate Jignesh Mevani became an overnight star when he won his first-ever election during the Gujarat assembly elections this year.

Contesting the election from Vadgam, Mevani bested BJP's Vijaykumar Harkhabhai by more than 20,000 votes. In what was a strategic move, the Congress withdrew its candidate from Vadgam in order to let Mevani contest from there against the BJP.

Mevani’s political rise came in the wake of the lynching of four Dalit youth suspected of having killed a cow in 2016 when he used his skills as a lawyer to bring the perpetrators of the lynching to justice. This incident, dubbed as the Una flogging, caused a huge movement in Gujarat's Dalit population.

The young leader led the struggle as a lawyer and trademarked the slogan,'you keep the cow's tail/ give us our land.' From then on, Mevani rose to find an ally in the Congress and a friend in the head of party Rahul Gandhi. But don't let that fool you because Mevani has no plans to join the INC and plans to maintain his political stance as an independent candidate.

Mevani's beef with the BJP is because of the treatment meted out to Dalits. "I want Dalits, who are 18 percent of the population in India, to mercilessly vote against the BJP in 2019," Mevani had told Huffington Post in an interview.

Alpesh Thakor

Alpesh Thakor is another rising star who emerged from the battleground of the Gujarat assembly elections.

The 40-year old leader was recruited by the Congress to win OBC (other backward classes) votes for them. Thakor defeated his BJP rival Lavingji Thakor by nearly 18,000 votes. His father was also a Congress leader who reportedly switched from the BJP more than two decades ago.

Thakor became famous when he launched a protest against the consumption of alcohol in January 2016. As an important leader in the Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena and the OBC SC ST Ekta Manch, Thakor joined the Congress in October.

In the run up to the elections, he made the lack of educational opportunities in the state his focal point for the campaign, since OBCs account for about 40 percent of the state's population, while the Thakor community represents 20-22 percent of it.

Hardik Patel

Hardik Patel who heads Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), also played a major role in the Gujarat polls.

Though the Patel community was a staunch supporter of BJP in the past, demands for granting the Patidar community put them at loggerheads with the party after they were rejected by the government.

The main demand of PAAS has been their inclusion in the list of OBCs, who have 27 percent reservation in Gujarat. Instead, the BJP offered reservation to a few of the economically backward classes as a consolation prize.

Even though BJP won the majority in the election this year, Hardik Patel remains a strong independent player and contesting for reservations for the Patidar community.

Jai Ram Thakur

When Jai Ram Thakur was sworn in as chief minister of Himachal Pradesh,

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah attended the swearing-in ceremony among others.

The BJP ousted the Congress from power in Himachal Pradesh by winning 44 of the 68 seats in the recently held assembly polls. But what people might have overlooked is that this was a show of solidarity by the party's upper echelon for the new leader.

In the run up to the Himachal Pradesh polls, Thakur was not the party's chief ministerial candidate. But when Prem Kumar Dhumal, former Himachal CM and long-time BJP leader, lost from his constituency, the BJP put Thakur at the forefront and all its strength behind him.

Thakur has had a long career in politics. Other than holding the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj ministry portfolios in Dhumal's government between 2008 and 2012, Thakur was also the chief of BJP's Himachal Pradesh unit from 2006 to 2009.

The newly-elected CM was interested in politics since his college days and joined the student wing of ABVP only to become a full-time activist later on. He worked in Jammu and Kashmir as an ABVP office bearer and contested his first assembly election from the Chachiot constituency of Mandi on a BJP ticket in 1993 when he was just 28. Although he lost that election, Thakur has never looked back since.

Deepa Jayakumar

When Tamil Nadu lost is beloved Chief Minister  J Jayalalithaa last year, a new player emerged in the state's politics -- her niece Deepa Jayakumar.

Jayakumar bears a strong resemblance to her aunt and was was hailed by the AIADMK as Jayalalithaa's one true political heir. She is the daughter of the former CM's deceased brother Jaya Kumar, with whom she had a falling out.

The reason for the fallout was the enormous amount of money Jayalalithaa spent on the wedding of her 'foster son', Sasikala's nephew VN Sudhakaran, whom she later disowned.

Jayakumar then launched her own political party, MGR Amma Deepa Peravai on her aunt’s 69th birth anniversary in February 2017 in opposition to the AIADMK and has vowed to carry her aunt’s legacy forward.

TTV Dhinakaran

Deepa Jayakumar was not the only player who emerged in Tamil Nadu politics after Jayalalithaa passed away last year. TTV Dhinakaran, the nephew of the late CM's aid VK Sasikala, has emerged as a strong player in the state politics this year.

Dhinakaran was thrown out of the AIADMK five years ago by Jayalalithaa amid reports that he was interfering in the party's and government's functioning. He was earlier a member of the Lok Sabha, representing Periyakulam from 1999 to 2004. He has also served as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

TTV Dhinakaran contested the RK Nagar by-election this year as an independent candidate where he defeated AIADMK's candidate E Madhusudhanan by a margin of 40,000 votes.

Stung by the RK Nagar by-election defeat, the ruling AIADMK on December 25 cracked the whip against nine party functionaries. The two AIADMK leaders had then sacked four of Dhinakaran's aides as district secretaries while expelling five others.

Dhinakaran had earlier lost his battle for the party's 'two leaves' symbol to the Palaniswami-led ruling camp and contested the election with a 'pressure cooker' symbol.

Yogi Adityanath

A list of rising stars from 2017 cannot be complete without Yogi Adityanath, who became one of the most prominent faces in this year's politics after being elected Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh this year.

Adityanath made his debut in Parliament after winning the 1998 general election from Gorakhpur. He continued to win the seat five times with large margins, except in 2004 when the Samajwadi Party’s Jamuna Nishad gave him tough fight and he won by just 5,000 votes.

Adityanath also took over as chief priest of the Gorakhnath temple after his uncle Mahant Avidyanath passed away in 2014. His very radical, pro-hindutva image came into focus in February 1999, when he tried to capture a graveyard land by planting a peepal tree at Panch Rukhiya village in Maharajganj district. A case under several sections was registered against him in the Kotwali police station.

His radical right wing image kept him center stage this year. Some of his landmark decisions after taking over as CM are the decision to waive farm loans worth over Rs 36,000 crore, cracking down on illegal slaughter houses in the state, and asking state ministers to stop using read beacons atop their cars.
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