Pravin Mishra was the National Institute of Design student who made Narendra Modi’s Gaurav rath, his 2002 election campaign vehicle. Five years later, he will take on Modi on his own turf of Maninagar.
The NID graduate, who painted hoardings to educate himself and made an animation film on the 2002 post-Godhra riots, filed his nomination papers on Friday from the Gujarat Chief Minister's constituency. “It's a decision not to sit back and watch. The political leadership has never been more dishonest and undemocratic,” Mishra said.
Then why did he design Modi's rath in 2002?
Mishra said he took up the offer to watch Modi from close quarters, though his friends did not approve of his work.
He is one of the three candidates that the New Socialist Movement (NSM) has put in the fray. The NSM is an offshoot of the Jan Sangharsh Manch, a civil rights organisation in Ahmedabad.
The other NSM candidates are Mukul Sinha, a physicist turned advocate and rights activist, trade union leader Ambarish Patel and gynecologist Maya Valecha, who gave up the medical practice for activism.
All are founding members of the Jan Sangharsh Manch and have been working for the rights of riot victims.
Like Mishra, Sinha and Patel will also face heavyweights. They will fight from Shahpur and Khadia constituencies, held by revenue minister Kaushik Patel and health minister Ashok Bhat, both Modi loyalists.
Valecha will contest from the Sayajigunj constituency in Vadodara.
“Why not take on the mighty on their own turf? We are here for a long haul to work on real issues with the people. This is an attempt to change the system,” Mishra, who is from Bihar, said.
The NSM is unlikely to hog the limelight in the keenly watched December Assembly elections. On its campaign agenda are the 2002 carnage, the fake encounters and the Tehelka sting operation. The Congress, which is the main Opposition, has not been high pitched over the riots.
The carnage, in many ways, was the reason why the NSM was formed.
“After the 2002 riots, we decided that we had to enter electoral politics to fill the void of active opposition. What has been happening since 2002 has shocked civil society here but there is no one to speak for the people,” said Sinha, who is an IIT graduate and has been fighting legal battles for minorities, fake encounter victims and trade unions under the banner of his Jan Sangharsh Manch.