Hitesh Chavda (MeraNews, Ahmedabad): Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani cleared the air on his political affiliations on Sunday, stating that he will not join any party.
One of the three pillars of Gujarat’s social movement, along with Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convenor Hardik Patel and Other Backward Class (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor, Mevani said, in conversation with MeraNews, that his stand is against violence and the injustice meted out by the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Mevani is not for sale,” the Dalit rights activist said a day after Thakor decided to join the Congress after meeting the party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi at the latter’s home in New Delhi.
“Political parties have approached me, but I will not join any of them. I am opposed to the BJP’s ideology, which is anti-Dalit, anti-constitutional and anti-Muslim. My commitment is to Dalits and Muslims,” Mevani said.
“I used to travel by autorickshaw at the time of the Una atrocity, and today I still travel by auto. I don’t have a Jaguar or a Fortuner. There’s not enough money to run my organization, but I am not taking funds from any NGO (non-governmental organization) or any people or political party,” he said.
In June 2016, four Dalits suspected of killing a cow were stripped and beaten in Una in Gir-Somnath district, and a video of the incident went viral on social media. The victims said they were skinning a carcass and had not killed the animal. The incident sparked widespread violence in the Saurashtra region that led to several to deaths and arrests.
Saturday was a busy day for Gujarat politics, with prominent Patidar community leaders Reshma Patel and Varun Patel joining the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) releasing its first list of 11 candidates for the assembly elections.
Earlier in the day, Bharatsinh Solanki, president of the Gujarat Congress unit, had said his party was ready to offer tickets for the forthcoming Gujarat assembly elections to Mevani, Thakor, Hardik Patel and Chhotubhai Vasava, the sole Janata Dal (United) member of the state legislative assembly (MLA).
“My priority is my movement and society. I am not here to become an MLA,” said Mevani, who added, “Of the three of us (Mevani, Thakor and Hardik Patel), I have been harassed the most, by people who would call late at night, instructed by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, considered the BJP’s ideological parent organization), and post audio clips on social media.”
“Mevani has made his choice, and to stand alone is a good decision. Now it’s up to the Congress on what to do about his decision. If Mevani had joined any political party, he may have lost his identity. The Congress needs to respond to Mevani’s demands and ideology,” said Rajiv Shah, a political expert.