NEW DELHI: Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has finally cast the die, in favour of contesting the Assembly polls. He will be filing his nomination papers today as an Independent candidate from Vadgam. He has requested all political parties, except the BJP “that is our enemy” not to field a candidate against him.

The Congress that had informed its sitting MLA Manibhai Vaghela over the telephone earlier that he was the candidate for the party from Vadgam has now withdrawn him. Vaghela told the local media after The Citizen report a short while ago, that he had been told by the party to vacate the seat for the Mevani.

“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’s support. Thus, there won’t be any Congress candidate on this seat,” Vaghela told PTI news agency.

Mevani was in two minds from the beginning, his first thoughts being against fighting these elections. As he had told The Citizen he would be working towards the Parliament elections in 2019. But now, under pressure from supporters and those he had been working with, the young leader has taken the plunge and will be filing his nomination papers at 12 noon today.

Mevani, who has been campaigning in the streets of Gujarat incessantly since the Una incident where Dalit youth were stripped and beaten by cow vigilantes, has made it clear over and over again that his fight is against the BJP. And in this election he would like a straight fight between him and the BJP candidate.

Mevani has urged all to support his decision, as there were several persons who had wanted him to hold his horses for 2019 as it were. He has assured everyone that this election will make the fight against the BJP, and for the downtrodden and marginalised sections, sharper and more intense.

This is a major decision by Mevani who is now clearly more confident of a win from Vadgam, an Assembly segment with a large Dalit-Muslim population. Interestingly this constituency had defied the BJP wave and returned a Congress candidate in the 2012 Assembly polls. The BJP has fielded a new candidate Vijaybhai Chakravati from this seat, a prominent local leader in what is recognised as one of the most backward constituencies of Gujarat.

It now remains to be seen whether the Congress will withdraw its candidate in favour of Mevani who has carried out a strong campaign against the BJP, and has emerged as a leader to reckon with. He has a sizeable support amongst the Dalit and Muslim communities, and has been campaigning incessantly since Una. Mevani has support outside Gujarat as well, with strong ties now with the youth movements in particular. Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar is a close friend and fellow campaigner as well.

Mevani has not minced words against the “fascist” BJP although in this run up to the polls has not crossed swords with the Congress. He has, however, resisted all efforts by the Congress party to join it, making it very clear that he values his independent struggle for the uplift of the Dalits and other marginalised sections. He has not been particularly enamoured of the Congress party making it very clear to this reporter that there was no question of contesting the elections on the Congress symbol. Like Hardik Patel Mevani has kept a distance, although in his case his support base might not have protested too much. Unlike the Patidars, the Dalits are not anti-Congress with the same intensity.

The Congress decision indicates a tacit pact, with Rahul Gandhi clear that the young leaders from Gujarat will have to be accommodated by the party.

“Now Gabbar on the ground,” said Mevani in a Facebook post. And he might be just that in more ways than one!