Cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s elder sister Naynaba Jadeja and father Aniruddhsinh Jadeja formally joined Congress at an election meeting of the party in Kalavad taluka of Jamnagar district on Sunday. Naynaba’s move comes around a month after the cricketer’s wife Rivaba joined the BJP.
Naynaba and Aniruddhasinh joined the party at an election meeting addressed by Patidar quota agitation leader-turned politician Hardik Patel. The public meeting in Kalavad was organised in support of Mulu Kandoriya, Congress candidate for Jamnagar Lok Sabha constituency. Senior Congress leaders Bhikhu Varotariya and Vikram Madaam were also present on the occassion.
Naynaba said that she wanted to work for women and therefore took a plunge in active politics. "I have been doing lots of social activities but I wanted to do more. I want to work for those who are suffering, who are being meted out injustice. Politics is one medium to reach out to such people. We can fight for ensuring justice for such people," she said while talking to The Indian Express after joining the Congress.
The father-daughter’s move comes just a few weeks after Ravindra’s wife Rivaba joined the BJP on March 3. It also comes around three months after Naynaba, who manages Jaddu’s Food Field, a restaurant launched by the cricketer, had joined the National Women’s Party, a political outfit floated by Hyderabad-based medical practitioner and social activist Dr Shwetha Shetty.
When asked as to why she chose Congress, Naynaba said that BJP does not do what it promises and therefore she felt more drawn towards Congress.
"I have been observing both the BJP and Congress. What BJP is doing is not appropriate. For the last four years, we have been witnessing people struggling to meet their basic requirements. For example, farmers are fed up. There is no loan waiver, interest waiver for them. On top of all this, it gave only Rs2000 to farmers. What one can buy from this amount! Look at the price of DAP fertiliser! It is costing Rs1400 to Rs1500 per bag. On the other hand, their produce fetches a price of Rs 700 to Rs 800," she said.
"I know all this because my uncles and other family members are still doing farming. Farming is increasingly becoming a difficult occupation. On the other hand, there are no avenues of employment nor women empowerment. They are giving slogan of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. Fine, we shall save and educate girl child. But will that child get employment? You promised 33 per cent reservation to women but you are hardly moving in that direction. Keeping all this in mind, I joined Congress, which, at least is fighting for all these issues and joined their fight," said 35-year-old Naynaba.
Naynaba holds a degree in nursing and was serving as a nurse at the state government-run GG General Hospital in Jamnagar, her native town. However, Ravindra and his family have now settled in Rajkot.
When pointed out that the BJP has been in power in Gujarat for the last 23 years, Naynaba said that public mood can swing anytime. "Nobody knows when times can change. Likewise, people can vote in and vote-out governments anytime. The public is watchful of their struggles for the last four years," she said.
Naynaba said that she had not demanded any party post and that her immediate focus would be on campaigning for Congress candidates in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. "My father is supporting me in my decision," she added.
When asked if Rivaba joining BJP had prompted her to join active politics, Naynaba said there was no connection at all.
"There is nothing like my decision of joining Congress was prompted by bhabhi (Rivaba) joining the BJP. Many Patel brothers are in rival political parties. Let also not forget the Gandhi family. They are also pided. If she (Rivaba) feels like going into one direction, I cannot stop her. Similarly, if I want to take another direction, she cannot forbid me. We are living in 21st century where women are independent to take decisions for themselves. In our family, women are not asked to confine themselves in a corner of the house. Nor does my brother support such an ideology. And for the record, I had joined National Women’s Party before Rivaba joined (the BJP). Nor is it imperative for me to come into active politics just because she has done. It depends on an inpidual’s ideology, place etc," she said.
Naynaba is the eldest among three siblings. She has a sister named Padminiba and cricketer brother Ravindra Jadeja. The family comes from a humble background and many credit Naynaba for taking care of the family after the demise of their mother when Ravindra was young and helping him realise his cricketing dreams. Ravindra had got married to Rivaba, an engineering graduate, in 2016 and the couple had a daughter last year. Of late, however, Rivaba mostly lives with her parents when her husband is away playing cricket.
While Ravindra and Padminiba are married, Naynaba is unmarried. She said that she had decided not to bother Ravindra by discussing politics as he is busy playing in the Indian Premier League and that she and her father had decided independently to join Congress.
Ravindra could not be reached for his comment. However, Manish Doshi, spokesperson for Gujarat state unit of Congress, said that Nayanba’s entry into Congress would give a boost to the party in the Lok Sabha election.
"We welcome to Congress Naynaba, who comes from a Kshatriya family and whose brother represents India in cricket at international level. Her entry will definitely send a positive message in entire Saurashtra. The fact that people are joining Congress even when the party is not in power means that people are attracted by ideology, policies of the party. If people today join the BJP, they are obviously drawn by the magnetic field of it being in power," said Doshi, pointing out that Naynaba’s entry into Congress comes just a day before party president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to visit Amreli.
Responding to a question if Congress would think Naynaba as reliable party worker as she had first joined National Women’s Party, Doshi said, "Sometime, people make decisions in a haste. Basically, she said that she wanted to work for women empowerment, for society through the platform of a political party. So, she formed a party of her own. Then she realised that there were limitations to that organisation. So, after being attracted by the ideology and working style of Congress, she has joined the party which under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, is committed to Bharat Nirman."
Incidentally, Rivaba’s formal entry into the BJP had come on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jamnagar on March 4. Kashtriya community form a sizable chunk of voters in Jamnagar Lok Sabha constituency which is dominated by voters of Patidars and Ahir communities.