Jignesh Mevani on Gujarat polls

Gujarat is going through interesting times, politically. An Assembly election is days away. The ruling BJP is facing a tough challenge from the opposition ranks. Three youths — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani — have stirred the political pot and caught the imagination of people. Will BJP bite the dust in Gujarat where it is ruling for an uninterrupted 22 years? Can opposition get its act together? The trio believe so. Mevani, a Dalit leader who rose to limelight after the incident of flogging of Dalits in Una last year, was in Delhi on Nov 16, 2017 and spoke to a group of journalists about BJP, Gujarat and the upcoming Assembly polls. Excerpts:

Why is Gujarat Assembly elections so bitterly fought this time?

Gujarat is witnessing a historic poll. The progressive, pro-poor forces have come together. If Indian Constitution and democracy have to survive, we have to stop the BJP-RSS fascist forces from winning in 201. If you have to stop them in 2019, it is important to defeat BJP in the Gujarat polls. We are in that project and doing whatever needed to achieve that objective.

In what the BJP calls a ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, 14 lakh more people have fallen below poverty line between 2000 and 2014. Malnutrition is rampant in state. Gujarat has fallen in several human development index. Gujarat model is a farce. It is not an inclusive model. If Gujarat model was a success, youths, farmers, labourers and others would not have hit the streets protesting. There is widespread dissatisfaction in Gujarat.

The BJP is shaken and desparate. We can see it when they are talking about the sex life of a 24-year-old Hardik Patel. They cannot beat us and speak about development. That is why they have raised this sex CDs and Ram v/s HAJ (Hardik, Alpesh, Jignesh) in a bid to communalise the polls. They should counter us on development and ideology.


You three youths represent different sections of the society and are together against BJP. But the communities you three represent have interests which are contradictory to each other. How will you address these contradictions?

One has to understand that there are 97-98 types of untouchability between OBCs and Dalits. Within Dalit sub-castes, there are 99 types of untouchability, according to an earlier study. Despite all this, when flogging of Dalits happened in Una, all sub-castes stood together. I agree there are internal contradictions between Patels and Dalits, other OBCs and Dalits and so on. But we have identified that our principle contradiction is with BJP and not with others. We have identified our common enemy and it has become a unifying point.

At a later stage, I agree, these contradictions within our groups have to emerge. But now farmers, landless people, youth and many other sections are against BJP. There is an unprecedented dissatisfaction in Gujarat. Post Una, there is a substantial consolidation of anti-BJP forces. In rural areas, we are well ahead. I don’t have a concrete answer for urban areas. But BJP which won 55 of the 58 seats in urban areas last time, will have to settle with 35-40 seats this time. My prediction is that BJP will not get more than 80 (out of total 182 seats).

What about your talks with Congress? How many seats you have demanded? Will your supporters contest on Congress symbol?

This is election time and I am a face of the protest. I have met Rahul Gandhi. Media has made our meeting a high profile event. I had then said that we will maintain our exclusive, independent space. I do not extend support to any party. We will continue to ask them to make clear their stand on our demands. Why should we extend support to somebody or go with some party. We have not asked for any seats. If at all we fight elections, it will be as independents and not on anyone’s symbol.

Will you contest?

I am not contesting. Why should I confine myself when I can play a bigger role.

You said you will not announce support to any party. Without naming whom to vote for, will it end up in splitting anti-BJP votes?

Don’t try to make me name a party. My gut feeling is that people won’t make that mistake again (of splitting anti-BJP votes). People have made up their mind. Nothing is going in BJP’s favour. We are not asking for a third option now. Message has gone to the people that BJP has to be defeated. There is no confusion in my stand as people in Gujarat understands who is to be defeated. People of Gujarat knows whom to vote for to defeat BJP. We are contributing to that mood of the people.

The BJP argument is that once Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits the campaign trail, the narrative will change. Do you think so?

Modi has been visiting Gujarat at least thrice a month in the recent times. But nothing has clicked for the saffron party. They had started this Ram v/s HAJ to communalise the campaign. Then they came up with the CD. Out of desperation they are reaching bedrooms of opponents. But nothing has clicked so far. So they will rake up communal issues. We will counter them. If they are going to raise issues like Ram temple or Pakistan, we will keep asking questions on price of petrol, why ‘dal’ is being sold at Rs 120? If they raise love jihad, we will ask why not inter-caste marriages and we will say ‘Pyaar, Ishq Mohabbat Zindabad’. We will ask the Prime Minister about his promise of generating two crore employment per year. I challenge Modi, Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani for a public debate with me, Hardik and Alpesh on development. Time and place, it is their choice. 

(Nov 17, 2017)

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Euphrates.
    Nov 20, 2017 @ 15:01:06

    good 1



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