Adivasi Neeti: Why ‘People’s Confidence, Not Money’ Will Mark the Stellar Debut of Rajasthan’s Third Front
The Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) has announced its candidates from Banswara, a reserved ST seat, and Jodhpur, while it is planning to field candidates from Udaipur (another ST seat) and Rajsamand as well.
File photo of BTP chief Chhotubhai Vasava
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), formed in the run-up to Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017, announced on Sunday that it would contest 20 seats across seven states and Union Territories in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to represent interests of Schedule Tribe communities
BTP chief Chhotubhai Vasava said the party would fight polls in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Daman and Diu, with Vasava himself contesting from the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat.
Besides BTP’s tally of two seats in Gujarat state elections in 2017, the party’s most notable moment came recently when it won two seats — Sagwara and Chorasi — in Rajasthan Assembly polls in December. Both seats fall under Dungarpur district, a part of the tribal belt in Southern Rajasthan.
After the Assembly poll success in Rajasthan, BTP is now gearing up to contest Lok Sabha elections. Their aim — to represent tribal interests in the Parliament. “Both the BJP and Congress have ignored Adivasi issues,” said Velaram Gogra, BTP Rajasthan president. “That is why our party was born.”
BTP has announced its candidates from Banswara, a reserved ST seat, and Jodhpur, while it is planning to field candidates from Udaipur (another ST seat) and Rajsamand as well. “Candidates for Udaipur and Rajsamand seats have been decided. They will be announced soon upon completion of formalities,” Gogra said. The BTP state president also said that several ticket hopefuls had reached out to the party from across the state and talks with them are underway.
Addressing Adivasi Issues
Gogra said successive BJP and Congress governments, both in state and in the Centre, had not only failed to implement constitutional provisions for the tribal population, but had also willingly refrained from spreading awareness among the community over its constitutional rights. “Governors are given power under the Fifth Schedule of the constitution and provisions of Article 244, but the State Assembly and the Chief Ministers do not let them use those powers. Under those constitutional provisions, Governors are guardians of the Adivasi,” Gogra said.
The BTP state chief said the party had concerned itself with various needs and demands of the tribal populace and intended to contest polls to “embolden” the community’s voice in the parliament. “Adivasi neeti, a unified Tribal policy, has been lying in the parliament. It needs to be implemented,” he said. “A Jain is a Jain across India, a Brahman is a Brahman everywhere. But Bhils from Barmer living in Delhi have to get an SC certificate.”
According to Gogra, drinking water and solar energy are two pressing issues in Rajasthan for tribal communities. Lakes constructed in tribal areas send drinking water to cities, Gogra claimed, however, local Adivasis do not get their equal share. “Water from other sources lack necessary minerals and have led to the Adivasis falling sick in the state,” he said.
Gogra also said the State and the Centre allocated funds for the development of Scheduled Tribal Sub Plan areas are never utilised properly and tribal lands are bought off against constitutional safeguards regularly, thus displacing Adivasis. “Governments of the past made several schemes, but they failed to permeate it to the ground level. The change that should’ve come in living standards of tribal communities is yet to come.”
Poll Debut Math
Schedule area in Rajasthan comprises of eight districts in south eastern part of the State.
According to a Gazette notification dated May 19, 2018, 5697 villages in Southern Rajasthan that have a tribal population more than 50 percent have been declared as scheduled areas by the Government of India. As per Census 2011 data, total population of the scheduled area is 64, 63,353 out of which the Scheduled Tribes population comprises 45, 57,917 – a staggering 70.43% of the total scheduled area population.
The BJP, despite losing the Assembly elections in Rajasthan last year, performed well in the tribal-dominated Mewar region which forms the southern part of the state. In Udaipur district, BJP got six out of the total eight seats, benefiting from votes being split between the BTP and the Congress.
Rajkumar Roat, the BTP leader who won the Chorasi ST seat in the Assembly polls, said the party was ready to capitalise on its impressive debut. “Three seats are already decided. We are also thinking of contesting from Sawai-Madhopur and Chittorgarh,” the legislator said.
In Banswara Lok Sabha seat, BTP’s Kantilal Roat is locked in a three-way battle with BJP’s Kanakmal Katara and Congress’s Tarachand Bhagora, while in Jodhpur, Amar Singh Kalunda is up against heavyweights Gajendra Singh Shekhwat, a Minister of State in the BJP government, and Congress’s Vaibhav Gehlot, son of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.
Matching Math to Matter
Kalunda, however, is not intimidated. The BTP candidate said all tribal schemes and policies were limited to the Udaipur division given its majority tribal population, and thus, Adivasis in Jodhpur division were often neglected. “BJP and Congress have given tickets to influential leaders, but local issues are neglected. Seventy percent of Jodhpur voters are ST, SC or OBC. Jodhpur district has around 2.5 to 3 lakh tribals, but there is no one to represent them. We need a third front in the region as both BJP and Congress have failed,” Kalunda said.
The BTP could spoil equations for both BJP and the Congress on the seats it is contesting. Gogra is confident of the party’s performance in its Lok Sabha debut. “Our two candidates won seats (in state elections) without spending any money because of people’s confidence. We can do the same in Lok Sabha polls too.”
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