It is not a straight pitch for cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Riva Jadeja who is hitting out her opening shot in electoral politics at Jamnagar North as the BJP candidate in this Assembly elections. She is less than three-years old in the party but has already caused disruption, with BJP choosing her over the incumbent legislator Dharmendrasinh M. Jadeja better known as Hakubha.
The sitting legislator was dropped after the High Court declined to withdraw criminal proceedings against him in a rioting case. Hakubha has represented the seat twice. In 2012 Assembly elections, he won it on Congress ticket and in 2017 as a BJP candidate.
When The Hindu met her on Sunday, her campaign had not yet formally started. Instead, she was busy putting the house in order, by meeting the BJP’s office-bearers in various municipal wards, imploring them to treat her as their own “ dikri or bahu” (daughter or daughter-in-law). These events are also ‘meet and greet’, where she is introduced to the BJP workers who—in her short tenure in the party—she is not acquainted with. Swigging tea from tiny paper cups and between several rounds of photographs, things are settled. The entire programme is over in around 40 minutes and she has another six destinations to reach before she can call it a day.
Riva Solanki or Riva-ba ( Ba is an appellation used in Gujarati mostly for older women or out of respect) married Mr. Jadeja in 2016; the couple has a five-year-old daughter.
Though this is Ms. Jadeja’s maiden election, she is not alien to politics. Her uncle Hari Singh Solanki has been a senior Congress leader at Rajkot; now. he has switched over to BJP. Her sister-in-law is with the Congress. She herself had a stint in Karni Sena, an organisation that often hits headlines for its protests against Hindi films; the latest one was against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavat.
“Since the 9th standard, I wanted to be an IAS officer to serve the country and society. But before I could really give it a shot, I got married and had my daughter. I had begun to feel that my own goals and aspirations were being left behind,” she recalls. She credits her husband for inspiring her to join politics and the turning point, she says, was the couple’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2018.
Ms. Jadeja dismisses the challenge posed by the Aam Aadmi Party. “They are outsiders. Just by saying a few things on social media or speaking about Gujarat in rallies outside of the State, do not mean a thing. A third political force has never succeeded in Gujarat and will not,” she adds.
Though she may wave off AAP, for now, Ms. Jadeja has a bigger problem on hand of keeping the dissidence at bay. According to sources, BJP has appointed Hakubha in charge of the three seats in Jamnagar. “BJP is a cadre-based party and we work as a cohesive unit and uniformly follow the high command’s orders.” she says
A view also shared by a band of BJP workers organising these ‘meet and greet’ events. “We only see kamal (Lotus). Whoever is holding our symbol, we stand behind them,” Babu Bhai Chavda, BJP leader declares.