Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani joined the Congress party in “spirit” and not “on paper”. The social activist-turned-journalist-turned-politician identifies himself as a social liberal and staunch Ambedkarite. Mevani is one of the leading reformists in the fields of land reforms and labour rights.
“I did receive a proposal to join the Indian National Congress (INC), but I am technically bound. An independent MLA can join a political party only within the first six months of becoming an MLA. And so, I can’t join,” said Mevani.
He also added that he had certain responsibilities towards his constituency Vadgam and now was not the time to disown them. “However,” he said, “I will continue to support the party and will remain with them in spirit and ideologies. I have also met Rahul Gandhi on several occasions and he too supports my thought. I am also open to joining the Congress for it will give more strength in fighting against the BJP in the upcoming elections in Gujarat and other states as well as for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.”
Mevani, due to his outspoken speeches also has his share of controversies. Born on December 11, 1982, in a Dalit family, Mevani contested and won the Vadagam assembly seat as an independent candidate in 2017. A seat the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party choose not to contest.
Education and early career
MLA Jignesh Mevani has a Masters in English Literature. He also studied law and has a Diploma in Journalism. He served as a reporter (2004-2007) in a well-known periodical “Abhiyan” in Gujarat. He also worked as a journalist in Mumbai in 2008 before calling it quits and turning into a full-time activist.
Fighting for justice for Dalits
Mevani has in the past led an agitation involving salaries of sanitation workers. In 2009, he also surveyed Surendranagar and Ahmedabad to study the distribution of government land to landless Dalits. From the survey, he realised that allotment of land was only done, on paper. The physical transfers of land were denied, to the Dalits.
Leading the Una atrocity protests
In 2016, he had rallied against the atrocities committed on Dalits during the Una controversy where a few Dalits were allegedly tortured, in police presence, under the garb of cow protection.
As the incident of mercilessly flogging the Dalits came to light, the state’s Dalits led an agitation. Several Dalit bodies joined hands under an umbrella unit titled Una Dalit Atyachaar Ladat Samiti (UDAL) to launch a larger movement. Mevani was the conveyor of the Dalit Mahasabha – leading a Yatra from Ahmedabad to Una in which 20,000 people participated – to protest against caste-based atrocities and discrimination.
Mevani’s foray into politics
Jignesh Mevani earlier joined AAP in 2014 and became the party’s spokesperson in Gujarat. However, post-2016, the Una protest, Mevani quit the party to concentrate on Dalit issues and their rights.
He decided to contest the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls from the Vadgam constituency. He pitched for a direct fight against BJP and appealed to other parties to withdraw their candidates. Interestingly, Congress and AAP withdrew and provided full support to Mevani. Mevani won by a margin of about 18,000 votes.