Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani today announced his decision to contest the Gujarat polls from the Vadagam (SC) seat of Banaskantha district as an Independent candidate with outside support of the Congress.

The move comes after sitting MLA Manibhai Vaghela said the state Congress asked him not to contest the polls from the seat “as a part of an agreement” with Mevani.

Vaghela said the Congress has given an indirect support to Mevani for Vadgam seat, reserved for a Scheduled Caste (SC) candidate.

“The party has asked me not to contest from the Vadgam seat this time. Though Mevani will contest the polls as an Independent, he will have Congress’ support. Thus, there won’t be any Congress candidate on this seat,” Vaghela told PTI.

Mevani today announced that he will file his nomination as an Independent candidate for the Vadgam seat.

“Direct battle with BJP”

In a message posted on social media, the face of the Dalit agitation in Gujarat claimed that he decided to jump into the poll battle after being “persuaded” by youth and numerous agitators.

He even requested other opposition parties as well as aspiring independents not to file their papers.

“Since the ruling BJP is our key enemy, I request aspiring candidates of other parties and independents not to file their papers, so that we can have a direct battle with the BJP. This is people’s battle against dictatorship and we will continue our fight after winning this election,” he said.

Mevani will be in a direct contest with BJP’s Vijay Chakravarthi.

Critical of BJP

Earlier this month, Mevani had a meeting with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi during the latter’s visit to south Gujarat. After the meeting, Mevani had said that the opposition party gave him an assurance that more than 90 per cent of his demands will be incorporated in its manifesto.

Stopping short of declaring an open support to the Congress after the meeting, Mevani had said that he would ask his community members to defeat BJP in the Gujarat polls.

Mevani, who has been critical of the ruling BJP in the state and shot to fame after the Una dalit flogging incident last year, had discussed 17 demands of his community in the meeting with Rahul Gandhi.

The Dalit leader maintained that he had no plans to join any political party.

Of the three young caste leaders, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor has already joined the Congress, while Patidar community leader Hardik Patel recently announced his decision to back the opposition party after accepting its proposed reservation formula.

The 182-member Gujarat Assembly will go to the polls in two phases — on December 9 and 14. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.

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