A day after Booker prize winning author Arundhati Roy contributed Rs 3,00,000 to Jignesh Mevani’s campaign, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani in a public meeting in Narmada district called Mevani a JNU “product”. But he got his facts wrong. Neither Mevani nor Roy are alumni of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
Addressing a crowd at Kevadia colony, site of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Narmada district on December 1, Rupani said , “We are devoted to Bharat maata but when in JNU which is Jawaharlal Nehru University – the same place this Jignesh and others come from, there was a sabha (meeting) of desh drohis. They were saying slogans like Bharat mata murdabad and Afzal hum sharminda hain tere kaatil zinda hain ( Afzal we are ashamed that your murderes are still alive).
Rahul (Gandhi) went to their sabha and sat with them. At that time where was Bharat maata and her temples. Why did you support the traitors? The people of Gujarat need an answer.”
Mevani, a newcomer to politics is now BJP’s newest target after Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel.
Mevani started out as a member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which he quit at the peak of the Dalit unrest following the Una public flogging of dalits last year. He is contesting from the reserved seat of Vadgam in Banaskantha district with the backing of Congress, which has not put up a candidate on this constituency.
To run his modest election campaign, Mevani had called for crowd funding, as part of which Roy contributed and Mevani went public on Twitter to thank her.
Mevani told this paper, “I am not from JNU but I wish Rupani ji studied in JNU because then he would know the difference between Ram’s arrows and ISRO’s missiles.”
While the CM is targeting his ire towards JNU it is interesting to note that there are many “JNU products” who are a part of the bureaucracy in Gujarat, including its chief secretary JN Singh. Around 12 JNU alumni work in the senior and middle levels work in Gujarat government and many more in junior level. “ JNU at least allows students to engage in political debates and allows free thinking,” the pro-JNU official said.
Certainly, the reference to JNU in the ongoing election campaign in Gujarat is an attempt to emphasise the image in Gujarat that JNU remains a hub of “anti-nationalism.”
Historians like Sadan Jha feel that right wing forces have used JNU to create a “monstrous image”. “JNU has become a metaphor for rebellion and the BJP is latching on to that image when talking about those who are rebelling and challenging the status quo.Not just JNU but any university which encourages critical thinking has been reduced to being a left wing bastion and that is not right”, says Jha.
The BJP has been upset by the huge turn out at Hardik Patel’s rallies and the fact that the three youth leaders – Hardik with Alpesh Thakor and Mevani, who started out with caste-driven agitations, are spinning Gujarat’s political narrative around to ask the BJP tough questions.
The Congress followed suit and launched negotiations with the three youth leaders at the level of Rahul Gandhi. The fact that he took interest in allying with these leaders is also interesting. Alongside, an armoury of soft-Hindutva weapons to counter this narrative has also been launched.
Certainly, if this alliance reaps dividends for the Congress, it will launch a new genre of politics in the grand, old party.