A mechanical engineer who aspired to be a civil servant, Rivaba Solanki got married to Indian cricket star Ravindra Jadeja in 2016. In October 2018, the Karni Sena, the Rajput group that led protests against the Bollywood film Padmaavat, chose her as the president of its women’s wing in Gujarat. Weeks later, she and her husband paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. On March 3, the 28-year-old took the political plunge, joining the BJP on the eve of Modi’s visit to Jamnagar, the city Jadeja hails from.
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You became head of the women’s wing of the Karni Sena in Gujarat in October and now you are a BJP member. Things seem to be moving very fast.
Yes, touch wood, everything is moving in the right direction. The Karni Sena is an organisation of 36 communities and I have the honour of representing them.
Why did you join the Karni Sena?
I am a Rajput and I have faith in the sanskar and beliefs of that community. I want to do good, constructive work for women… I am concerned with issues of not only Rajput women but women of all communities… That incident in Jamnagar (in May last year), where I was assaulted by a police constable, was an indirect motivation for me to do something for women empowerment. So that whatever happened to me does not get repeated…
We want to survey women who are in need but nobody is listening to them. We want to empower women in the real sense. For that, self-identity is a must. Secondly, we want to effect a change in the mentality of parents and in-laws with respect to women after marriage. Widow remarriage is another subject we want to focus on. Cases of divorce are rising, we want to explore the reasons. The institution of marriage is an important part of Hindu culture.
Was joining the BJP just the next step?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a source of inspiration for me. His personality, his identity, the way he has led the nation, his vision for the country and the identity of Hindustan he has carved out in the world, it is a matter of pride for every citizen.
Take, for example, national security. He carried out the surgical strikes. Secondly, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India within hours. It was the first time in history that a prisoner of war was released so soon.
When did you take the decision to join the party?
We had paid a courtesy visit to Modi sir in late November. As we were leaving, he observed that good people are needed in politics and that if one does not grab the opportunity, someone else will. That last sentence stuck in my mind… My husband told me if people are approaching me, I should go… I will try to give society my all as a youth icon, as the wife of a celebrity.
Is your decision linked to the coming Lok Sabha elections?
No, no. No discussion has taken place… The party will decide.
What do you think about the ongoing debate over Pulwama and the air strike in Pakistan?
Citizens have full rights to know what the government is doing. That does not make one anti-national. For example, if someone asks me what are the objectives of the Karni Sena, I have to answer them in a clear manner. The same applies to higher authorities. People do have the freedom to ask questions of the government. But one should desist from asking questions affecting national interest, national security or the sentiments of a particular organisation or party. People should not see sensitive issues through the binary of patriotism and politics.
Karni Sena members were accused of violent protests against Bollywood film Padmaavat.
I would like to state that there was no violence at the initial stage. I have not seen Padmaavat so far. However, not only Rajputs but any community would show aggression when their sentiments are hurt… Some protest peacefully, others show aggression. Rajputs are a warrior community.
Will the Karni Sena help you in your political career?
The entire Rajput community is supportive of me. The Karni Sena is also supportive. It goes without saying that the community you hail from always remains your backbone.