Rahul doesn’t need guidance or ideas: Mevani on missing Gandhi in Gujarat

| Updated: 26 November, 2022 5:41 pm IST

Once they were comrades. Today they are political rivals who belong to opposite camps of the political spectrum. Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and Patidar leader Hardik Patel, along with OBC leader Alpesh Thakore spearheaded the identity politics of Gujarat in 2017 Assembly elections. Today Mevani and Patel only speak in diametrically opposite tone and tenor.

In an exclusive interview to The New Indian Mevani, who is contesting on Congress ticket from Vadgam, rebuffed former friend Hardik’s  statement questioning rolling out of the Bharat Jodo yatra during election season.”Does Rahul Gandhi need anyone’s advice?” Mevani retorted.

Earlier, speaking to our team in his constituency Viramgam, Hardik, who switched  from Congress to BJP said Rahul Gandhi needed to bring his house in order before he thought of uniting the whole country. “Elections are happening in Gujarat and Rahul Gandhi is travelling in other parts of the country. He has no vision for Gujarat. He should focus on Congress Jodo and not Bharat jodo,” he said.

Almost deifying the Congress leader for “undertaking the task of uniting India”, Mevani hit back saying, “Hardik has the right to say anything he wants. It’s his constitutional right. But Rahul Gandhi is on the road to unite people’s hearts and to unite the whole country. This is Sant Ravidas and Kabir’s country. This is the land of Gautam Buddha. There has been a tradition of Sufis and saints here. Who can advise a man like Rahul Gandhi, who is on the street with a noble aim?,” he told The New Indian team while he was on a campaign trail in Vadgam constituency in Banaskantha district.

Hardik Patel was the Gujarat Congress Committee working president when he resigned from the party post in May after writing a four-page acerbic letter taking potshots at the state Congress leadership. He said that the leadership was more focussed on ensuring that the leaders from Delhi get “chicken sandwiches”on time. Back then he had criticised Gandhi’s leadership style saying, “Whenever this country was in need and needed the Congress leadership more at that time our leaders were abroad.”

Patel and Mevani, along with Thakore were comrade in arms during the 2017 assembly elections.  They came together to form a formidable anti-BJP force last election helping Congress score its highest tally in over three decades in the state – 78.

This time around  Mevani is contesting as a candidate of the Congress. Against him is Manilal Vaghela of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Dalpat Bhatiya of the Aam Aadmi Party. Hardik and Alpesh are contesting on BJP tickets from Viramgam and Gandhinagar South respectively.

Mevani is the sitting MLA from Vadgam, which is a SC reserved constituency. In 2017, he won the seat as an independent by 19,696 votes against BJP’s nominee Vijay Chakravarti. Congress had indirectly backed Mevani’s candidature by not fielding its own candidate from the seat.

With around one lakh Muslims and Dalit voters in the 2.5 lakh-strong constituency, Mevani is expected to register another decisive victory here. Other politically influential  communities like Thakors, Darbars, and Chaudhary dictate voting pattern. Congress has won the seat four times since 1995 in Gujarat.

Mevani has a unique style of campaigning. He addresses small meetings throughout the day and his campaign rallies begin with a group playing the tambourine and singing, “Gaon se utho, basti basti se utho, aadmi aurat bhi utho, budhe bache bhi utho is desh ki surat badalne ke liye utho, jiske haath me kuch bhi nahi, awaaz leke utho” (Rise from villages, from every every lane, men and women, arise, Arise children and the old alike. If you do not have anything, just raise your voice. Arise to change the face of this country.)”

Explaining why all his campaign meetings begin with the song he says, “There is not much in life except for art.”

Mevani begins his speech with an apology directed towards his audience for addressing them while sitting on a chair. He suffers from a medical condition due to which he has to use a chair during election rallies.

Mevani rose to national prominence during the protests following the 2016  Una flogging incident in which seven Dalit youths were tortured in the town of Una, Gujarat on the pretext of cow protection and in the presence of the police.The assailants had filmed the incident and it was widely shared over social media, which eventually led to the Chalo Una march and a mass movement around Dalit identity. Mevani spearheaded this campaign and emerged a mass leader among Dalits.

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