Dalit leader says he’s not joining the Congress or contesting elections, but is willing to come together with others to defeat Gujarat’s BJP government.
New Delhi: Jignesh Mevani has emerged as a strong Dalit voice in Gujarat in recent times. His resolve to defeat the ruling BJP has brought him closer to the Congress, although their relationship hasn’t yet been formalised.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Mevani discussed his political ambitions and future plans. Excerpts:
You had a meeting with Rahul Gandhi on 3 November. Are you going to support the Congress in the upcoming elections?
This was a meeting called by Rahul Gandhi himself, and I asked him about the Congress’s viewpoint on Dalits. I made certain suggestions to be included in the Congress manifesto, and he readily agreed to look into it. We also decided to have another meeting, where I would be present with other Dalit activists. That meeting will happen with senior Congress leaders and not Rahul Gandhi.
You were running an independent movement for Dalit rights. What was the need to align with Congress?
First of all let me clarify: neither am I joining the Congress, nor contesting the upcoming elections.
Now, to your question, atrocities on Dalits have risen across the country under the BJP’s rule. You talk about Saharanpur in UP or Una in Gujarat, there has been a constant effort by the BJP to crush Dalits. In Gujarat, the Congress is the only party which is fighting with the BJP. So, we are bound by a common cause — of defeating the BJP.
For the last 22 years, the BJP in Gujarat has never spoken about Dalits. I held a press conference, and within 22 hours, Rahul Gandhi invited me for a meeting.
The behaviour of the two biggest national parties is being witnessed by 47 lakh Dalits of Gujarat.
But the Dalits have already been voting for the Congress. What difference are you going to make?
A section of Dalits were voting for the BJP too. I think that is going to change. I am personally running a programme where 10,000 Dalits have taken an oath to not vote for the BJP at any cost. The programme is ongoing, and you will see Dalits consolidating against the BJP this time.
There are other two community leaders rising in Gujarat apart from you — Alpesh Thakor has already joined the Congress, while Hardik Patel is willing to support the party. Do you think, together, you can ensure a Congress victory?
This election is not about the Congress versus the BJP. It is an election about the six crore people of Gujarat versus the BJP.
No community is happy in Gujarat with this government — be it OBCs, Patidars, minorities, or Dalits. That’s why you see Alpesh, Hardik, and I running different movements against the policies of this government.
This government has put sedition charges on 23-year-old Hardik Patel. The UP government has imposed the National Security Act on Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army. People are watching all this.
I don’t see any BJP wave here in Gujarat. If at all there is a wave, it is anti-BJP.
Have you talked to Hardik and Alpesh about coming together to support the Congress?
We are in constant touch with each other. Since Alpesh has joined the Congress, he would be bound by the party mandate. Hardik and I will campaign together in constituencies where the BJP is strong, to ensure its defeat. Take my word, this election is going to be different.