NEW DELHI: Still shying away from openly endorsing the Congress, Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani — one of three Young Turks trying to shake up Gujarat politics or the 22 years of unbroken BJP rule in the state — was in Delhi to canvas for his communities’ cause. But equally to defend his Patidar counterpart, Hardik Patel’s bedroom rights in the wake of the latter’s sex-CDs going viral.
A Dalit leader making a common cause with a Patidar Patel is neither common nor straight politics in Gujarat. But then this election season is proving to be unusual. Particularly, since the new alliance of the youth leaders, with BJP as their common counter point, are seemingly breaking the caste status quo of the state.
Ironically, it’s the demise of the Congress’ KHAM (Khastriya-Harijan-Advani-Muslim) politics built by Madhvasinh Solanki that led to the BJP’s rise in the state. Left out of the power equation, the angry Patidars found a ready platform in the saffron party which then benefited from projecting Keshubhai Patel.
Despite the later disaffection with Keshubhai’s ouster, the Patidar Patels mostly have remained solidly behind the BJP. But with business down and the prospects of a whole new generation of job seekers equally bleak, the quota agitation not just found resonance with the youth, but also made Hardik, a leader.
As it turns out, another youth, Jignesh Mevani, riding on the anger over the Dalit atrocities committed by cow vigilantes in Una, has now managing to bury the traditional caste contradictions between the Patidars (comprising 14% of the votes) and the Dalits (compromising 8%) to come out in support of Hardik.
It’s the political opposition to the BJP that seems to be binding them together, added with the realisation that without the aggregation of their anger, there’s no future to fight for. So old antagonisms are overlooked.
Says Jignesh: “What happens in someone’s bedroom, in a 24-year-old’s private space, is not a political issue. It’s no one’s business, just shows how low this election has gone to deflect attention from the real issues — of jobless growth, non-inclusive development, social tension, caste inequalities. …More than Hardik, I think it’s an insult to all Gujarati women.” Jignesh, undoubtedly, is the more political among the two.
But who’s he favouring in the elections? “We’re not asking for votes for any party. We’re raising our demands. I feel, our struggle will continue whoever comes to power,” Jignesh adds, a tad philosophically, pointing to “a larger struggle” that his “community has to engage in” for their “legitimate constitutionally granted rights”.
But scratch a little, the political understanding with the grand old party comes through. “The Gujarat model has given us nothing. Done good to only a few corporate houses, everyone is on the streets — the Dalits, the Patidars, the OBCs, the Asha workers, the government employees,” he adds, sounding much like Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.