Bhopal: As part of ‘Aazadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, a 100-day campaign launched by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to mark the 75th year of India’s freedom, Union Home Minister Amit Shah will head to Jabalpur to mark the martyrdom day of famous Gond king, Shankar Shah, and his son, Raghunath Shah.
The event, however, is widely being seen as the BJP’s tribal outreach programme Gaurav Diwas that culminates on November 15. It is aimed at celebrating and honouring the valour and courage of tribal heroes who contributed in the freedom struggle.
The Congress had made much noise after the Shivraj Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh had made August 9 (International Day of the World’s Indigenous People) an optional holiday. Later, on September 6, the party had taken out Adivasi Adhikar Yatras across the state, alleging growing atrocities on the tribals.
Speaking to the media persons about the September 18 event in Jabalpur, State head of the BJP, VD Sharma, said the party is highlighting contributions of tribal heroes like Shankar Shah, Raghunath Shah, Tantya Mama and Birsa Munda. He slammed PCC chief Kamal Nath and the Congress for ‘pretending’ to be with the tribals. “If they care for tribals, I invite them to November 15 Gaurav Diwas celebrations,” said Sharma.
Shankar Shah was a famous Gond king of Garha Kingdom in the Gondwana region. Despite his state being under the British rule during first war of independence in 1857, the king and his son, Raghunath, both good poets, were saddened by the British era atrocities and kept igniting the rebellion through their poetry. As the British officers learnt about their acts, the duo was arrested and sentenced to death and on September 18, 1858; they were tied to cannon mouth and blown up.
The locals in Jabalpur mark their martyrdom day on September 18 every year.
Meanwhile, asked if the BJP was apprehensive about polls as union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Amit Shah and Jyotiraditya Scindia are coming to MP in next few days, Sharma called it a routine visit.
Apart from strategising up for 2023 assembly polls, Madhya Pradesh is also bracing for four by-polls in Raigaon, Jobat and Prithvipur (assembly seats) and Khandwa Lok Sabha seat.
However, with 47 out of 230 seats being reserved for the Scheduled Classes in Madhya Pradesh, tribals have sizable sway on the poll outcome.
In 2003, when the BJP unseated the Congress from power, the saffron party had won a total of 67 seats reserved for SC-ST as against 15 won by Congress. However, a spirited Congress had edged out the BJP in crucial 2018 polls when the grand old party had uprooted BJP which was in power for 15 years. The BJP had won only 18 SC seats in 2018 and 16 ST seats as against 31 ST seats and 28 SC seats won in year 2013’s assembly polls.
Top leaders have reportedly cautioned the state unit against possible drift in the SC and ST vote bank. Party state in charge Muralidhar Rao had recently held a party SC cell in Bhopal where the senior leader had called upliftment of Dalits in MP as party’s topmost priority.
Besides, the party is already cornered by the Congress on OBC vote bank over 27% quota issue. As the high court is due to take up final hearing on the issue on Sep 20, the Shivraj government has introduced the 27% quota in exams and government recruitments, barring those cases which are pending before the court.
Ajay Shah, the Congress ST cell chairman, slayed the BJP plans, saying the party has only remembered Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah as their tally of ST seats of 2013 had shrunk to 16 in year 2018. “They are flying tribals, that too their workers, in chopper for Jobat bypoll,” he said, adding, “Tribals are travelling in Kamal Nath’s chopper for last 20 years but they never publicised it. We even had carried an ailing tribal during Barwani tribal conclave in the chopper but we never highlighted it.”
“We have been marking martyrdom of Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah for year so will the case this year as well. Honouring tribals is an event for them (BJP) but it’s a sense of respect for us,” claimed Shah.