Eyeing support from influential young leaders representing different communities ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi on Friday met Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, who said he was “very satisfied with the assurance” given by the Congress vice-president on the demands of his community.
While Mevani remained non-committal about joining the Congress, he said meetings with Congress leaders would continue. “We will continue our meetings with the Congress party in the coming days for other matters,” he told reporters after a 17-minute closed-door meeting with Rahul and a few senior Congress leaders at B R Farms in Navsari. On the other hand, Congress’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot tweeted: “Today #JigneshMevani joined Sh #RahulGandhi… Mevani has been raising his voice for the rights of Dalits in #Gujarat…”
Mevani, earlier, had put forward a set of 17 demands before the Congress as a condition to extend his support to the party in the Assembly elections. The Dalit leader said that Rahul assured him to include the demands the party’s election manifesto. The demands include allotment of five acre land to Dalits for farming, alternative employment to those who are involved in skinning of cattle and manual scavenging, and the release of a probe report into the firing on the community members at Thangadh in Surendranagar district in 2012.
Stating that the meeting was positive due to the “proactive” approach of the Congress vice-president, Mevani said that Rahul’s willingness to hear the community issues were “much unlike the arrogance shown by the BJP”. The Dalit leader even travelled with Rahul in a blue bus for 15 km to the venue of the Congress leader’s public address in Navsari, making more room for a discussion along the way.
Once he got off the bus, Mevani said, “Since the last couple of years not a single BJP leader has met us or heard us. I am happy that Rahul Gandhi spared some time from his busy scheduled and met me. The meeting was successful and another such meetings with Congress leaders and Rahul Gandhi will take place in coming days. We are very much satisfied with the assurance given by Rahul Gandhi.”
The Congress vice-president was in Navsari on the third day of the last leg of his Gujarat Navsarjan Yatra. The Congress is eyeing support from the Dalits and the Patidar by trying to woo Mevani and Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel. In a shot in the arm for the Congress, young OBC leader Alpesh Thakor had recently joined the party.