Even as Hardik Patel kept Congress hanging in balance over lending support in upcoming polls, Rahul Gandhi managed to hold positive talks with another young leader from Gujarat, who the Congress had been trying to woo for some time.
Jignesh Mevani, who shot to prominence after the Dalit flogging incident in Gujarat's Una some time back, met Rahul in Navsari. The 36-year-old 'Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch' leader appeared buoyant after meeting the Congress vice-president even as he stopped short of announcing his support to Congress. He, however, declared that he would ask his followers not to vote for BJP.
Eyeing to gain from the anti-incumbency sentiment against the almost two-decades-long rule of BJP, the Congress has been seeking to court dynamic young leaders representing different caste interests ahead of the Gujarat polls. Rahul was on the third leg of his Gujarat Navsarjan Yatra when he held 'positive' discussions with Mevani.
"Since Una (incident), we launched numerous agitations and submitted memorandums. Despite this, the thick-skinned BJP government, which is not only anti-Dalit but also anti-people, has not considered even one demand of our community. They have not even bothered to even to talk to us," Mevani told reporters after the meeting.
On the other hand, the Congress was receptive to the demands of the Dalit community, Mevani said.
Rahul also assured the Dalit leader that 90 percent of his 17-point demand letter would be accommodated in the Congress' poll manifesto, even as he said that most of those demands were indeed constitutional rights of all citizens.
"We had a detailed discussion with Rahulji on our 17 demands. Rahulji not only listened to us but said over 90 percent of them were our constitutional rights. He assured us that most of the legitimate demands would be included in the Congress manifesto," he said.
Meanwhile, Rahul also repeated his barb on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, claiming, we hear everyone's mann ki baat.
"We listen to everyone and work after hearing their problems — be it Jignesh, Hardik or Alpesh (OBC leader Alpesh Thakor)," Rahul said after the meeting.
Terming the assembly elections in Gujarat a fight between truth and lies, Rahul said the truth lies with his party, and not the BJP.
"This is a fight between truth and lies. On one side, it is Gujarat's people, on the other 5-10 industrialists. Modiji and BJP have everything, they have power in many states. They have power in the central government, in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. They have a lot of power, they have police.
"But the Congress party will win in Gujarat because the truth is with us. They don't represent the truth. The truth lies in the hearts of the people of Gujarat," said Gandhi during a corner meeting in Pardi.
"There is about 30 lakh unemployed youths in Gujarat today. Modi had promised two crore jobs every year. Only one lakh youth are given jobs every year. In China 50,000 jobs are created per day, under Modi government, it is 450 per day. It is a matter of shame," the Congress vice-president said.
The Congress leader said all the communities in Gujarat are agitating against the state government, be it the Patidars, the Adivasis, Dalits and the farmers.
"The truth of Gujarat is corruption, land-grabbing, attack on Patidars, lathi-charge on Dalits in Una, poverty of Adivasis and unemployment," Gandhi said.
"The BJP government has handed over the resources of Gujarat like wealth, electricity, water, land, to just 5-10 industrialists. It gave Rs 33,000 crore to one company to manufacture Nano cars. In the past 10-15 days, I travelled more than 1,000 km, why couldn't I see a single Nano car?
"I didn't see it anywhere. Not just Gujarat, you'll not see it anywhere. The question is..this money belonged to whom? Was it Tata company's, the chief minister's or did it belong to Gujarat's farmers, labourers and the poor," he asked.
"With a similar amount (Rs 33,000 crore), the Congress government implemented MNREGA scheme in the entire country, gave employment to crores," said Gandhi, adding the same amount was given to one company by Gujarat government but the people of the state did not benefit from it.
The Congress, out of power in the key western state for over 22 years now, has been trying to woo three young leaders who have emerged on Gujarat's political firmament in recent times through various agitations. Thakor, an OBC leader, has already joined the party.
Hardik, the Patidar quota stir leader, the most prominent among the three, has so far not declared support to the Congress but has been critical of the BJP.
The reservation issue, however, can prove a major hurdle in Hardik extending support to the Congress as Thakor, who heads the Kshatriya Thakor Sena, has been opposed to the reservation for Patels within the quota meant for the backward classes. In fact, Thakor had launched an agitation to counter the one led by Hardik demanding reservation for his community.
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Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 22:54:49 IST