New Delhi: Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, who pledged allegiance to the Congress Tuesday, said he along with Kanhaiya Kumar, who joined the party, will engage with youth at the ground level to create a mass anti-incumbency movement in different parts of the country.
Speaking to ThePrint in Delhi, Mevani, the MLA from Vadgam, announced that he will be contesting the 2022 Gujarat elections on a Congress ticket.
“We will be reaching out to the people of the state and engaging with them. Our aim is to create a mass movement in our states, which will help us protect the country from ruin under the BJP’s rule,” Mevani said. “We will be speaking on issues of water, health, sanitation, education and human rights.”
On his home state of Gujarat, Mevani said the government’s Covid mismanagement has exposed the poor condition of the health infrastructure in the state. Small businessmen in the state are also suffering due to demonetisation, lockdown and GST, Mevani added.
The Dalit leader from Gujarat also spoke on a range of issues, from identity politics, people’s demands in Gujarat to the current nature of politics in the state.
BJP in Gujarat
Mevani said the BJP is struggling amid heavy infighting and mismanagement in Gujarat.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat picked its cabinet members and threw them out like how a fly is handpicked and thrown out of milk; the party is in a major turmoil in the prime minister’s home state,” he said.
The MLA added that the BJP is on the backfoot in the state.
“My sources told me that an IT raid was planned for a member of the state cabinet a day before they were removed. This is the condition of the party right now; it is on the backfoot,” he claimed. “Which is why the time is right for Congress leaders in the state to mobilise the youth and create a mass movement to overthrow the BJP.”
The BJP has held power in Gujarat since 1998, but Mevani thinks the Congress will be able to finally dislodge the party.
“The performance of the Congress in the 2017 state elections was so brilliant that we were only 19 seats behind the BJP. The gap that we need to cover now has reduced to such a small number, that it gives us confidence,” he said.
In the 2017 state assembly elections, the BJP’s 99-seat tally was just seven more than required for a simple majority in the 182-member House, and only 19 seats more than the 80 won by the Congress and allies. The BJP secured 49.1 per cent votes, one percentage point more than in 2012, but lost 16 seats. The Congress’ 16-seat jump, its best performance in the state since 1985, came on the back of just a three percentage point rise in vote-share.
Role in Congress
Mevani said the reason he has shifted loyalties to the Congress was because the party stands for democracy and revolution.
Asked about the sidelining of Dalit leaders in the party over the years, he said, “I am looking at the bigger picture here. We have to save the democratic and social fabric of India; if that is gone, then there will be no question of fighting for Dalits left.”
On whether he will be campaigning for the Congress in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand elections, he said, “For now, my focus will largely be on Gujarat. If the party high command decides that I am required in these states, then I will be present.”
Mevani, sharing the stage with student leader Kanhaiya Kumar at the Congress headquarters Tuesday expressed his allegiance to the Congress, but said he cannot join the party formally as he is presently a sitting Independent MLA in the Gujarat assembly.
He had previously served as the AAP spokesperson for Gujarat between 2014 and 2016. This was also the time he rose to prominence after protesting the incident of a Dalit youth being beaten up in Una, Gujarat.
Clearing the air on possible alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in the state, the 38-year-old MLA said, “The Congress helped me with my transition from a student activist to a politician; they helped me in Vadgam by not putting an opposing candidate. Why should I go anywhere else? When the second largest party in the country has aided my growth, why should I go to any other party?”
On his designation in the party, which still remains undecided, Mevani said, “ The only thing on my mind right now is to create a mass movement among the youth of the country to overthrow the BJP government. Getting a designation in the party is secondary to me.”
Going beyond identity politics
Hardik Patel, who rose to prominence during the Patel agitation of 2015, feels that the ‘groupism’ in the party has been the factor restricting him from working in the state. His presence in the state’s politics faded away after joining the Congress.
Speaking in defence of his party member and on his identity as a Dalit leader, Mevani said, “Hardik rose as a Patidar leader in 2015 and his identity became that. He is in the process of revamping his image as a farmer and youth leader.
“As for my image as a Dalit leader, I have been speaking for those who have been devoid of their basic rights. I will not stop speaking for their rights but you will also see me going beyond identity politics and speaking on a range of issues that are important to the people of Gujarat.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)