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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Congress in 60 years treated tribals as vote bank; BJP under PM Modi gave them respect: Arjun Munda

Attacking the Congress, the former three-time Jharkhand chief minister claimed that the party believed that tribals who lived in jungles were criminals by nature and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government first took interest in their welfare.
Last Updated : 06 May 2024, 10:54 IST
Last Updated : 06 May 2024, 10:54 IST

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Khunti (Jharkhand): Union minister Arjun Munda on Monday claimed that the Congress and I.N.D.I.A. bloc converted tribals into 'mere vote bank', while the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured that these people get due respect.

Attacking the Congress, the former three-time Jharkhand chief minister claimed that the party believed that tribals who lived in jungles were criminals by nature and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government first took interest in their welfare.

"The Congress in its 60 years regime treated tribals as mere vote banks whereas the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to ensure that they get due recognition and respect. This is why the Prime Minister chose Khunti to launch major schemes including a Rs 24,000 crore programme for PVTGs (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) from Khunti," Munda said in an interview with PTI.

Munda, Union tribal and agriculture minister, is contesting Lok Sabha elections from Khunti reserved seat that is identified with tribal icon Birsa Munda.

In 2019, Munda won the Khunti LS seat, facing the problems of human trafficking, poverty, opium cultivation and Naxalism, with a slender margin of 1,445 votes, and is once again locked in a direct fight with Congress candidate Kalicharan Munda.

"This is true that tribal society has been used as a vote bank only. There were no schemes, no policies for them. When their rights and systems were adopted later, Congress ensured that tribal issues came under the Home Department. They believed that those who resided in jungles were criminal by nature," he claimed.

It was the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who took interest in their welfare and later Modi ensured justice to them, Munda said.

He claimed the tribal society understood the game plan of Congress that it wanted to keep them away from development to reap the benefits of their innocence and now they are aware of their rights and understood who was working for them.

"They will vote for BJP under a dynamic and visionary leader like Prime Minister Modi. We are confident to cross the 400 mark this time and in Jharkhand, we will win all 14 Lok Sabha seats irrespective of tribal or non-tribal seats," Munda claimed.

To a question, he admitted that Khunti and Simdega are known for human trafficking, particularly of girls.

"I have undertaken an innovative step to boost confidence and provide employment to girls here. I had initiated moves like learning while earning - a programme to ensure employment for tribal girls.

"I am happy that an unprecedented experiment is becoming successful as thousands of girls have been trained by Tata Electronics. Now mobile parts of mobile phones like Apple are being made by Khunti girls," he said.

Massive horticulture initiatives are also being taken to bring youths engaged in drug trafficking and extremism to the mainstream, he said.

The minister said that despite witnessing record production of fruits and vegetables, Khunti is not able to reap the benefits as it lacks food processing units and market links.

Munda said, "I admit that the eastern region lacks infrastructure and channelised agencies. The procurement of products from the region through minimum support price is also less. The governments in the past did not pay attention to this. But we are now committed to ensuring a sound agriculture infrastructure in the belt for cash crops and horticulture so that these can be sent to the national market. Jharkhand will be accorded special attention."

On lac and tussar silkworm cultivation, he said steps were being undertaken to promote these in national and international markets, while a large laboratory is being set up at Khunti under Honey Mission.

On the opposition's promise to introduce MSP on all agro-produce, he said it may be a populist measure in the short term, but how much it will be beneficial in the long run is a matter of research.

"They are promising this on the eve of this election whereas they were in power for 60 years. They would have done it long back," the BJP leader said.

On the BJP's promise of providing ration for 80 crore people for the next five years, he said "We have sufficient stock and there is no need for imports."

Asked how confident he was of his win since the margin last time was only 1,445 votes, the minister said, "I accept the contest was close last time. But the people of Khunti are deciding the best for them."

He listed the development measures that have taken place at Khunti, such as setting up Eklavya Model Schools and raising the number of students and teachers in existing ones.

Hitting out at the JMM-led alliance in the state, Munda said that they deliberately delayed release of funds and implementation of central schemes to show the BJP in a bad light.

Countering JMM-led alliance's accusation that funds were not released under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna and hence the state had to launch Abua Awas Yojan from their funds, he said the ground reality is different as they failed to utilise Rs 5,000 crore funds properly for water supply.

Likewise, the allotment of Adarsh Gram Yojana model project was pending for three years and was just released ahead of elections, he alleged.

"Illegal transfer of tribal land is rampant in Jharkhand, it is a major issue and the state government should have checked it. Unfortunately, the former CM himself faces such charges of grabbing land," he said referring to an allegation against Hemant Soren.

People have no sympathy for him, Munda claimed.

On the I.N.D.I.A. bloc's accusation that the Centre has been using CBI and ED to harass opposition leaders, he said if they felt so, they could seek justice from the court of law.

Munda attacked the state government for keeping control over sand, saying that it was a minor mineral and Gram Sabha has rights over minor minerals in the traditional system.

Khunti (ST) seat with a total of 13.12 lakh voters will go to polls on May 13.

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Published 06 May 2024, 10:54 IST

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