Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM), took out his first roadshow Monday in Vadgam of Banaskantha district, where he is contesting as an independent backed by the Congress.
Before he set out, The Indian Express spoke to Mevani over the phone. He discussed his plans and the impact that he, Patidar leader Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor are making on the polls.
During the roadshow, RDAM co-convener Subodh Parmar told The Indian Express over the phone: “We are telling people that Jignesh Mevani is bringing his sewing machine [his election symbol] to stitch the torn vikas model because of which people are not getting employment and the issues of the poor, Dalits and Muslims are constantly being ignored.”
The daylong roadshow started from Chhapi village and passed through Timbachudi, Vadgam Chowk, Uttampura, Hussainpura, Fatheypur, Somdara and Merwada. Mevani’s BJP rival is Vijay Chakravarthi. Vadgam constituency has 2.61 lakh voters, as of 2017. In Census 2011, Vadgam taluka had a population of 2.40 lakh. Of the two communities whom Mevani is addressing, Scheduled Castes make up an estimated one-sixth of the population and Muslims an estimated one-fourth, combining for at least 40%.
Excerpts from the conversation between Mevani and The Indian Express:
In what way have Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani impacted the elections?
By creating substantial anti-establishment sentiment, by ensuring that people challenge the status quo, and by ensuring that people understand the fake development model that the BJP has created. We are showing people the real issues, and the response to the three of us has been massive, especially among the youngsters. The three of us together have been able to get an anti-BJP movement going in the state. People were not questioning the BJP for a long time, but we have been able to provide that platform, and it is a movement that will gather more momentum.
Will that boost the Congress?
It absolutely will. That is my objective view on this. The Congress is getting a boost on various fronts because of us.
What happens if the BJP wins?
My struggle against the BJP will continue. Even if the Congress comes to power and does not take up the issues that I am fighting for, then I will fight against them. The voices and issues of the marginalised communities have to be addressed. If I lose, I will start preparing for 2019 and will ensure that the BJP’s vote share reduces from 31% [Lok Sabha polls, 2014] to 21% . I will make sure that the movement gathers momentum all over the country.
If the BJP does lose, what next?
I will get a tremendous boost and will have a greater say and voice in national politics.
Why is the BJP attacking Hardik so frequently?
Because vikas has become mad and dirty. Hardik is clearly pulling a bigger crowd and has been strong against the BJP. The BJP attacks anyone it thinks is threatening it.