Gujarat has been under a vice-like grip of the Bharatiya Janata Party since 1995, it has changed three chief ministers and sacked an entire Cabinet like chucking pawns from a chessboard with not a word of challenge. The Congress’ cookie has been consistently crumbling with 16 MLAs of its 2017’s 77 winners besides sundry spokespersons and hundreds of lower rank party men having embraced the BJP. Two players, AAP and AIMIM, are already there chewing away at the already dithering opposition.
It is all systems go for the BJP in Gujarat for the December 2022 elections, so why is this one single 42-year-old man, Jignesh Mevani, giving the master strategists the goosebumps? Percentage-wise, Dalits are only 7% of the electorate with 13 seats in a State Assembly of 182 and seven of these are already with the BJP, while Congress has six, including Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani.
Besides Mevani, two of the three young players who brought Congress its biggest number of 77 seats and BJP to a double-digit of 99 for the first time in 25 years have already been neutralised. While OBC leader Alpesh Thakor is already with the BJP, Hardik Patel is displaying restlessness with statements like “all options are open,” and is almost done with from the ruling party’s Patidar political viewpoint.
First was aggressive OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who cried hoarse over being ignored by the Congress, and embraced the BJP. It is curiouser that the same Thakor lost the same Radhanpur seat on a BJP seat that he had won with the Hand symbol. And now Hardik Patel, though made the State Congress Working President — a unique post created for him while the President was still there — is making the same Alpesh-like noises, to say the party leadership ignores him, that he is not being involved in any meetings and not called anywhere.
Constantly displaying his pleasures and displeasures by tweaking his Twitter handle like a crybaby, Patel’s latest was to remove his introduction “Gujarat Congress Working President” .
What was surprising, this was exactly 24 hours after a religious function on his father Bharatbhai’s first death anniversary on April 28 where the Congress leadership made all the usual welcome words as though the return of the prodigal son.
When AICC Gujarat in-charge Raghu Sharma said, “Hardik is inseparable and is the future of the party and will play key responsibilities in the upcoming elections, the 29-year-old Patidar boy lapped it up saying, “This is what I have been demanding. You give me work, I will run at 110 km per hour.” So, the Patel youngster, while being himself confused, has lost his nuisance value for the BJP.
There are two possible factors why the BJP is worried about Jignesh Mevani, according to political scientist Ghanshyam Shah, while another adds that with him also comes the fiery Kanhaiya Kumar who is already in the Congress.
“Mevani has clarity on issues, he is articulate, he is a good orator and appeals largely to the youth especially from the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim (KHAM) in varying degrees,” says Shah. KHAM are the original vote-generating caste and community categories for the Congress party.
“More important,” he adds, “Jignesh is fearless and can take just anyone head on. And for the BJP, the fear factor is a tacit campaign formula. So if you diffuse and are able to get someone like him out of action, the Congress is left with hardly a few who can speak like him and simultaneously appeal to the youth.”
Similarly, Prof Hemant Shah, economist and human rights activist, asserts, “Jignesh Mevani holds a huge nuisance value for the BJP because he is articulate, he is fearless and appeals to the youth not only among the Dalits but also Muslims and OBCs in different ways.”
Ghanshyam Shah says, “It also needs to be understood that the OBCs are scattered and don’t have any unifying structure like the Patidars (Patels), who have a samast Patidar samaj (all-inclusive community structure). So Mevani works there too and when you have an entire party machinery behind you, he becomes lethal.”
And veteran Gujarat-based journalist RK Misra grins, “The BJP has made a huge mistake by tinkering with Mevani and given out a readymade agenda to the Congress party when it was already looking for one.”
Also Read: ‘Victorious’ Jignesh Mevani Dares Modi Govt, Says ‘Pushpa Jukega Nahi’