‘There is an undercurrent against Modi’: Jignesh Mevani

Published : Apr 26, 2024 19:45 IST - 7 MINS READ

Jignesh Mevani during the “Save the Constitution” Sankalpa Samavesha campaign by Samvidhana Ulivigagi Karnataka at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on April 29, 2018.

Jignesh Mevani during the “Save the Constitution” Sankalpa Samavesha campaign by Samvidhana Ulivigagi Karnataka at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on April 29, 2018. | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

The Dalit leader and MLA from Gujarat says BJP’s rhetoric is about Hindu-Muslim issues, and not about employment, development, or social equality.

Two-term MLA from Gujarat’s Vadgam Assembly constituency and emerging Dalit youth leader Jignesh Mevani is campaigning across India for the Congress party and the INDIA bloc. In this exclusive interview with Frontline, he talks about the mood in the country and the Congress manifesto.

The Gujarat based MLA and member of the Congress party speaks to Frontline about the country’s mood regarding PM Modi, BJP’s propaganda, Congress’ manifesto, etc. | Video Credit: Interview by Amey Tirodkar; camera by Amey Shejwal; edited by Samson Ronald K.

You have been campaigning around the country. What are your observations?

There is a definite undercurrent against the Modi government. Finally, people have started to realise that what Mr. Modi claimed will not be materialised. He won’t be able to deliver. That realisation is growing among the masses. I won’t claim that I have travelled all over, but I have been to Tamil Nadu, Assam, various parts of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, etc. I found that the people are really frustrated, and the Congress manifesto is catching their imagination.

Also Read | It is neck and neck in the first phase of election in Maharashtra

You are talking about the Congress manifesto. But BJP leaders, including PM Modi, are attacking the manifesto.

Let them attack. That’s their job. But we have come up with the practical, progressive manifesto. It is a blueprint for the development of India. Thirty lakh government jobs, a legally guaranteed MSP, Rs. 1 lakh per annum to the woman head in each family… all these promises are clicking among the people.

What about issues like inheritance tax, which the BJP has raised? And the idea of wealth redistribution that PM Modi has criticised.

The wealth redistribution issue is related to the redistribution of resources. The accumulation of wealth in a few hands is evident to everybody. If we get to know what the actual population of OBCs, tribal people, etc., then we can also find out how many tenders and contracts and mining leases and land these people have in their possession. The equitable distribution of wealth and resources is vital to ensure that we become a socialist republic.

Do you believe that the BJP has reached a saturation point in terms of propaganda?

The BJP and PM Modi are talking only about Hindu-Muslim [issues]. As in the wealth redistribution issue, they are saying that Congress wants to give everything to Muslims. This communal, Nazi-type rhetoric is not going well among the people. They have started realising that when elections are around the corner, PM Modi will talk only about Mandir-Masjid, Hindu-Muslim, Bharat-Pakistan. He doesn’t talk about how many jobs he created. About his vision to revive small- and medium-scale industries. About how he wants to support entrepreneurs. How he will double the income of farmers. About why he has not been able to fill vacant government posts. About how he will ensure social justice to OBCs, tribal and Dalit [communities], and women.

The major problem for Congress right now is communication. Your manifesto could be great but is it reaching the masses?

Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, me, all the star campaigners, everybody is talking about it. Now I ask people at every rally: How many jobs will we give you? And the crowd says 30 lakh. It means our manifesto is reaching the masses. We are also making video clips. We are circulating it on WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. Also, the training of our party workers is going on, where we make sure the workers get an idea of the promises in the manifesto.

Two constituencies—youths and women—have been the backbone of the BJP’s election successes in the last 10 years. How are you specifically addressing them?

If you see the case of the athletes, they had to protest on Delhi’s streets for more than 100 days, demanding an FIR against Brij Bhushan Singh [BJP’s MP from Kaiserganj and former president of the Wrestling Federation of India]. Similarly in Manipur. Here in Gujarat, they released the rapists of Bilkis Bano. I don’t think this is going down well with the women of Gujarat. As for the youths, they are really frustrated. Almost 60-65 per cent of people are below the age of 35-40 in any part of India. Everyone will say, we want employment, we want jobs. So where are the jobs? There are no jobs. And PM Modi has stopped even talking about it. He is not bothered about employment. He is not ready to utter a word. He claimed that he would give two crore jobs per year. By that measure, I think by now he should have been able to generate 20 crore jobs. Where are these jobs? You don’t need rocket science to fill vacant positions in the government. But that too you are not doing.

The BJP slogan was “Ab Ki Baar, 400 Paar” but since last week, the party has not talked about it. What is your view on this?

The way south India responded, and they also must be getting feedback from their workers, from the RSS, from the IB. Things are not going in their favour. I don’t want to do any wishful thinking, but in the first phase they have lost it. And, therefore, the bravado of getting 26 out of 26 in Gujarat and 400 nationally, that is punctured.

Do you think that the talk about changes in the Constitution if they get 400+ seats has percolated to the ground? Especially among the SCs, STs and minorities?

I have no doubt about it. Three days after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar presented the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser wrote categorically that we don’t want Ambedkar’s Constitution, we want it replaced with the Manusmriti. Lots of people like Anant Kumar Hegde have claimed that they are here to change the Constitution. Many people in the RSS have written and talked about it. I have a genuine fear that they will definitely distort our social fabric further. They will definitely temper and distort the Constitution. It is a dangerous situation. Dalits, Adivasi, tribal communities, minorities, a lot of liberal, progressive people, the OBCs are all seriously worried about it.

In the last two elections, BJP had a clean sweep of Gujarat.

Not this time. Not this time. 110 per cent. We have an alliance with AAP. We are fighting well in Patan, Banaskantha, Anand, Valsad, Junagadh, Rajkot.

Where are you getting the idea that the Congress can stop the BJP in Gujarat? Because of the Kshatriya protest?

Because of the arrogance of the BJP. The language used by Parshottam Rupala is not just against the Kshatriya community. It is against all women. He said some nasty things and the BJP did not act against him. This arrogance of the BJP will hurt them the most.

But just one and a half years ago the Congress was routed in the Assembly election.

Of course, there is no doubt that the Congress party could win only 17 seats. We had 77 in 2017 and dropping to 17 is a debacle. A lot of people quit the party. But the momentum of the Lok Sabha election is in our favour. It has shifted.

What is the people’s feedback to the caste census promised in the Congress manifesto?

People are realising this is the only way to expand the reservation limit. Our own internal survey suggests that people are accepting it. They know that this data will help them get to know their share in national resources.

What is your answer to the question “If not Modi then who?”

The people of India. Dr Ambedkar wrote that hero worship in politics is not good. We have the INDIA bloc; we will collectively decide.

Also Read | In Maharashtra, an election like never before

What about the question of strong leadership?

See, if I become Prime Minister and if I am not distributing land to landless people, if I don’t care about reviving SMEs, if I am not concerned about MNREGA, if I don’t fill up vacant government posts, then what is the point of having a strong leadership? People want a government that will work for them and not for a few friends.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment