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HomePoliticsGujarat Election 2017Jignesh Mevani inside the Gujarat assembly is a nightmare to the BJP

Jignesh Mevani inside the Gujarat assembly is a nightmare to the BJP

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If Vikaas is a big balloon, Jignesh Mevani is the pin that can burst it.

The verdict is out. The ruling BJP is cut to size in Gujarat. The state that gave 26 out of 26 MPs in 2014 to make CM Narendra Modi the PM of India has cut him to size just 3 and a half years later by not letting him reach 3 figures in the 182 member Gujarat assembly.

Much focus will now shift to Jignesh Mevani, a young Dalit leader who rose from nowhere to being a lawmaker in just a matter of a year and a half. Mevani, who fought on an independent ticket, backed by Congress, won from Vadgam by a margin of 19,697 votes.

Jignesh Mevani in the opposition bench in Gujarat assembly is likely to be a nightmare for the right wing forces. If Vikaas is a big balloon, Jignesh is the much required pin that can burst it.

He has said that he intends to call for a statewide sanitation workers’ strike to highlight their problems of manual work and entering manholes to clean the sewers. He will demand regularisation of the workforce, so that if there rare injuries, illnesses or death because of work, the government will pay compensation to the families. Right now, these workers are on contract. The demand for regularisation and compensation will perhaps push the government into ending the manual practice.

This is likely to be one of the first challenges that he will present to the administration.

Unlike most of the traditional politicians, he emerged from the grassroots, struggling all the way into the assembly. In an extremely corrupt electoral system, where only the moneyed and the muscled have a chance, Jignesh’s victory is that light at the end of the tunnel.

Interestingly in Vadgam, the last round of campaign from the BJP’s side was on the lines of, “if you don’t want to vote for BJP, vote for Ashvinbhai Parmar (son of late ex-minster Dolatbhai Parmar), who stood as an independent candidate after Congress didn’t give him a ticket. And if you don’t want to vote for Ashwin, press NOTA (None Of The Above). To neutralise the anti-incumbency undercurrent, BJP crafted a slogan “Hum naaraaz hain, par gaddar nahin!” (We are angry, but not traitors!). This captured the imagination of the traditional BJP voters who were considering voting for Congress.

Not surprisingly, out of the 10 contenders in Vadgam, NOTA got 4255 votes, beating even Ashvinbhai Parmar himself by about 1100 votes.

Vadgam even had inter-caste contradictions. Like the Vankar and Chamaars, both Dalits may not agree to the narrative of the exploitation on them by the ruling classes. This time, they all voted for Jignesh, signaling unity under one Dalit identity. And this has tremendous significance in Dalit politics in India.

A little more than a year ago, very few, even in Gujarat knew Jignesh Mevani. On 11th July 2016, four Dalit men were skinning the carcass of a dead cow in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una. They were tied to the car and were beaten mercilessly with sticks and iron pipes by a cow protection group. They were brought to Una town and assaulted again in public. The group made a video of it and circulated in their circle. The video went viral among Dalits too resulting in an unprecedented outrage.

Jignesh announced a march to Una from Ahmedabad which culminated on August 15, 2016 with a massive gathering of over 50,000 people. There was a vacuum of a credible Dalit leader in the state. Jignesh filled that space. Not too many people know that his own father has skinned dead animals in his past.

Jignesh worked with Jan Sangharsh Manch, an organisation founded by Late Dr Mukul Sinha for justice and rights of the underprivileged. He was also part of the fight for regularisation of contract safai workers in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. He also fought for the rights of Gujarat Industrial Security Forces (GISF) jawans.

The Gujarat Police filed several cases against him and other members of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch for attempts to stop a train in Ahmedabad and threatening to disrupt the high-profile Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January 2017.

Mevani, a 37-year old Ambedkarite is also a thorough reader of Marxist literature. After his schooling at Vishwa Vidyalaya Madhyamik Shala, he completed his English literature in 2003 from HK Arts College and received a diploma in journalism and mass communication. He worked as a reporter for Gujarati magazine Abhiyan from 2004 to 2007. He completed his law degree in 2013 from DT Law College.

His legal activism started with demanding five acres of land for every landless Dalit and complemented his legal fights with street protests. Such a man in assembly can make the BJP very very uncomfortable. Moreover, he is an independent candidate so he is his own ‘high-command’.

PM Narendra Modi knows this. During the victory celebrations of Gujarat and Himachal, he called on to Gujaratis to be “extra-vigilant” about the caste-leaders, signaling systematic demonization of Jignesh Mevani.

Pravin Mishra is a professor and political commentator in Gujarat. He contested against Narendra Modi in the 2007 election. 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Looking at his arrogance and his cheap ways of using words,he looks like a dog let out to bark at others by his owners..half filled or empty vessels makes noise..he is one among them.

  2. Agitation is one thing.. Respect is another. He is a true Low Caste and his comments smell of Low Caste

  3. If you have a dream and desire, you can chase and make them happen.That is Mr.Jignesh for you.He is an example for the youth of country to fight the divisive people. It is not the Vikas but brotherhood among the people of this country, is the need of the hour.

  4. Bahubali movie very famous in India at the time of success, Now that wave has gone. Same thing applicable to politics also.

  5. JIGNESH in the assembly is good for Gujurat Dalit people, but I can;t understand how & why he will be a nightmare for BJP. He should co-operated with govt to improve social life of Gujurat dalit communities.

  6. BJP is very expert in handling these type of leaders. I can gurantee you, within 1 -2 years ( if not in months) this guy will be transformed into Ramdas Athavale !!

  7. Leaders like Mevani are required in a healthy democracy provided their rhetoric is NOT similar to BJP, i.e. ‘Congress mukt Bharat’ versus ‘BJP is a fascist party that should be thrown in the dustbin.’ It may be too early to judge him, but he can certainly look at Arvind Kejriwal and take a lesson on how NOT to squander precious opportunity.

    • should take lesson from Anna hazare also he has been also lollypoped by hypocritical,cynical burocratic government …

  8. Fantastic article. People like Mr Jignesh mevani are the answer for Dalit community not Mayawati. My heartiest congratulations to him.

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