Jignesh Mevani’s Crowdfund Campaign Gets Boost from Arundhati Roy
In the run-up to the high-stakes Gujarat Assembly elections, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani announced his decision to contest as an Independent candidate from Vadgam constituency. A brand new contender in the fray, Mevani’s challenge got a boost with author Arundhati Roy contributing Rs 3,00,000 towards his campaign, on Thursday.
Mevani has turned to crowdsourcing platform Crowdnewsing to keep his electoral campaign afloat. In an appeal on his campaign page, titled Janta Ki Ladai, Janta Ke Paison Se, he asserted that his political opponents have the resources, whereas he has the resilience.
Mevani will be in direct competition with the BJP’s Vijay Chakravarthi.
Jignesh's Previous Trysts With Crowdfunding
Incidentally, this is not Mevani’s first attempt at crowdsourcing. In September last year, Mevani’s campaign for the Ahmedabad-based non-profit Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch was shut down by Bitgiving.
Speaking to The Quint at the time, Bitgiving said:
The campaign, Dalit Asmita aur Astitva ki Ladai, has been closed as it was brought to our notice that it violates our guidelines. We do not allow religious or political campaigns on BitGiving. We would also like to clarify that as opposed to the conversation on social media, this decision was not taken due to any external interference or pressure. All funds raised till now have been refunded to the contributors. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to all those involved.
Responding to The Quint’s queries, Bilal Zaidi, founder of Crowdnewsing, said the platform is willing to accomodate any campaign that is within the legal ambit, whether political or religious.
Zaidi clarifies that the crowdfunding campaign may or may not have any bearing on what eventually happens on the ground.
Jignesh is so busy working on the ground, he has no time to even tweet when we ask him to. The crowdfunding campaign is for a completely different audience... We are running the campaign in English, not even in Gujarati. So even if we raise Rs 10 crore in the crowdfunding campaign, it has no bearing on what may happen on the ground. The team on the ground is a different one. But it does add one nugget to his campaign where he’s being transparent about his funding.
A pre-decided percentage of the funds raised go to Crowdnewsing.
A Trend of Crowdfunding in Indian Politics
The Aam Aadmi Party in 2014 set a strong precedent for crowdsourcing for electoral campaigns. In 2014, AAP launched a crowdfunding campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, and had managed to raise Rs 21 crore by November.
This is in sharp contrast to Irom Sharmila’s experience in Manipur, where her party, Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance, remained cash-strapped despite crowdfunding. Sharmila eventually polled only 90 votes, and two of her party members lost their security deposit of Rs 10,000 each. Incidentally, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal contributed Rs 50,000 to Sharmila’s crowdfunding campaign too.
Zaidi elaborates that online crowdfunding in India is in a nascent stage, but digitisation has helped boost it as a successful model to raise money – something that Mevani seems to have latched on to.
Meanwhile, AAP and the Congress have announced their support for the leader who rose to prominence after he led the Dalit agitation in Gujarat following the Una Dalit flogging incident in 2016.
With the contest in Gujarat heating up, and the question of Dalit rights looming large as an election issue, will Mevani’s gamble pay off?
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