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Nandini Oza
Nandini Oza

INTERVIEW

There is no alternative but Congress

24-Jignesh-Mevani Jignesh Mevani | Janak Patel

Interview/ Jignesh Mevani, dalit leader

Why are you angry?

Not just me, but the entire youth of this country are angry at the way the BJP has shown its anti-people, undemocratic, fascist face. There is major unrest among the masses in Gujarat. The Patels and dalits are out on the streets. The OBCs are agitated. There is a severe agrarian crisis and farmers are agitated. All classes of people are agitated.

How do you assess the BJP’s rule for the last 22 years?

The BJP has not produced an inclusive model of development. According to the government’s own data, 40 to 45 per cent of children in Gujarat are malnourished. The Dangs, officially one of the poorest districts in India, is in Gujarat. In the last 15 years, more than 1.5 lakh small- and medium-scale industries have shut down. Farmers are committing suicide, minimum support price for crops is not being provided. The industrial infrastructure is being handed over to industrial groups. Land is handed over to corporate giants. Land reforms are not being carried out. Untouchability is prevalent in thousands of villages. The state government could not take up the challenge of declaring even a single village “free from untouchability”. A large number of safai workers do not get minimum wages. Compensation has not been given to the kin of 165 manhole workers who died in the last five years.

Whom are you supporting?

I am pro people. Since I am not joining any political party, I am not going to ask for votes for any political party.

Won’t the voters get confused?

The voters have made up their mind. That is why Modiji has to come to Gujarat thrice in a month. In Surat where BJP president Amit Shah addressed a meeting, the area was fenced off so that nothing untoward happened. ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers threw bangles at Modi. Dalits and Patels threw chairs at the BJP’s functions. Traders of Surat came out on the streets for the first time to oppose GST.

Three youngsters—you, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore—are at the forefront of anti-government protests.

I am very happy that despite the dalits being only 7 per cent in Gujarat, the dalit issue is being talked about. Caste brutalities are being brought to light. This has never happened. We have got thousands of ‘anti-establishment karyakartas’, which was not the case earlier. The dalit youth feel empowered, they are joining in the dharnas. The same is happening on a much bigger scale with Hardik. The same is with the OBCs. Though I am not joining the Congress or going to ask for votes in its favour, these three agitations will lead to a consolidation of votes in favour of the Congress. There is no alternative. The BJP is the enemy. The Congress vote bank is definitely getting consolidated because of Hardik, Alpesh and me.

Isn’t the Congress also playing the caste card?

As of now, my principal enemy is the BJP and I do not want to talk about anyone else. This is because the BJP is fascist. I have problems with all political parties. But the BJP is fascist and it doesn’t believe in constitutional values of creating a secular socialist democracy. It wants to impose ‘Hindu rashtra’ and as Babasaheb [B.R. Ambedkar] said, it would be disastrous not just for dalits, but for ‘We, the People’.

Gauri Lankesh was killed. She was like my mother. Whenever I used to go to Karnataka, I would stay at her place. Sixteen days before her death, I had met her. There are so many others who were killed. They are imposing sedition charges against [student leader] Kanhaiya Kumar and Hardik Patel. If the BJP comes to power again in 2019, then the country will be finished. So we should do everything possible to stop them here.

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The Week

Topics : #Gujarat | #elections

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