‘Congress a better platform... in tune with idea of India’: Jignesh Mevani
Jignesh Mevani spoke to Sunetra Choudhury about why it is the right platform for him even as the party has faced a series of defections
An independent legislator from Gujarat and a Dalit leader, Jignesh Mevani, is expected to join the Congress soon. Mevani spoke to Sunetra Choudhury about why it is the right platform for him even as the party has faced a series of defections. Edited excerpts:
What is it about the Congress that has drawn you when many have left the party?
Whatever we’ve witnessed, as a nation, as a society, in the last 6-7 years, is nothing but the destruction of democracy. [There has been an] attack on our social fabric, our idea of India, and the Indian Constitution. The way RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) have been operating, there is every chance that they will amend the Constitution and keep destroying our democratic institutions. In this situation, I feel that my duty is to do everything that I can do to protect the Constitution and our idea of India. For that, I need a platform. What better platform, than a platform with the legacy of the Indian freedom movement, which is in tune with our idea of India, and which celebrates the Constitution. I believe that Rahul Gandhi is a man who never compromises with the RSS and BJP, and therefore I’m joining Indian National Congress.
But isn’t what Kapil Sibal and other Congress leaders have been saying bothering you?
Internal contradictions will be there in all the political parties. My duty as a beginner is to bring more people on board rather than being concerned about the ones who are leaving. Kanhaiya Kumar (who joined the party recently) and I will be reaching out to thousands and thousands of young people in every state. And I’m really optimistic and hopeful that seeing Hardik (Patel), Kanhaiya, and me, many people will join. People who left the party haven’t been able to create an impact, but our joining has tremendously excited people.
Gujarat has seen much political activity of late. The BJP’s assessment is that by changing the entire cabinet, they are getting rid of anti-incumbency. What is your assessment?
Their move of changing their entire cabinet, in a way, is an admission on their part that there is tremendous anti-incumbency. This anti-incumbency has two dimensions: anti-incumbency of the last 27 years, and anti-incumbency generated out of the monumental mismanagement of the Covid crisis. So, there is a great chance for the Opposition, there is a great chance for Congress. Last time we lost by 10-12 seats, this won’t be the case this time. I’m really optimistic and I’m greatly hopeful.
In the 2017 polls, Congress performed the best it has in Gujarat in years. Don’t you think that the momentum that the opposition and the Congress built then has gone?
I must admit that there have been ups and downs. But, as the elections come close, there will have momentum in our favour... and Hardik and I have planned to do something big on the issue of unemployment. We will be reaching out to the masses and things will change very soon.
If GST was the big issue in 2017, unemployment will be the issue in 2022?
The next big election is in Uttar Pradesh. Do you think the Dalit leadership base is consolidated in Uttar Pradesh or fragmented?
Fragmented, and it is fragmented not just in UP Uttar Pradesh but everywhere. But my primary focus will be more on Gujarat. I will be going to various parts of the country only after 2022. Definitely, 2024 (national polls) is a gigantic task before all of us, but I’ll be focusing more on Gujrat. As far as the case of Uttar Pradesh is concerned, I don’t see any role for me initially, but in the coming days and years, I will go there definitely.
How does BJP still retain the Dalit vote?
As far as Gujarat is concerned, they haven’t been able to gain much out of Dalit votes. But in Uttar Pradesh, they could manage, and the Dalit Bahujan movement has also come down weakened and let us not forget that BJP is operating as a corporate party. They have enormous money. So, paid media, social media, buying people in Rajya Sabha elections... It has purely become a game of money in which BJP is able to do better than all the political parties. The movement, however, cannot get away with this argument, we also need to rethink our strategies, about what we have been doing. And we will try to work on that and how to bring Dalits back to our fold.
Would you say that your attempt is going to be to renew the KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) alliance that Congress had in Gujarat?
We will be talking about inflation, unemployment, public health, education, and the fruits of the Gujarat Model that have not reached most people. I want to talk about the revival of the small and medium scale industries, how the entrepreneurs can be supported and promoted. I want to talk about providing resources to Dalits and tribals, how those who have suffered due to GST and notebandi (demonetisation). I want to talk about prosperity for all. So, culturally progressive, socially just, and economically prosperous Gujarat is my vision.