Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Rathwa community candidates from BJP, Congress to again fight for supremacy in Chhota Udepur

Congress leaders claimed their candidate will also benefit from the support of its I.N.D.I.A. bloc ally Aam Aadmi Party, as it will check the division of anti-BJP votes.
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 06:50 IST
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 06:50 IST

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Chhota Udepur, Gujarat: The Chhota Udepur Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat will see a repeat of clash between Rathwa tribal community candidates, even as two prominent community leaders have shifted from the Congress to the ruling BJP.

While the Congress claimed its prospects remain unaffected in this seat reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates, the BJP is confident of a win again as it banks on the development and welfare schemes launched under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership.

Congress leaders claimed their candidate will also benefit from the support of its I.N.D.I.A. bloc ally Aam Aadmi Party, as it will check the division of anti-BJP votes.

This time, former MLA Sukhram Rathwa is the Congress candidate from Chhota Udepur Lok Sabha seat, where he is pitted against BJP's Jasu Rathwa, a former sarpanch.

The BJP has dropped incumbent MP Gitaben Rathwa.

Before the 2022 Gujarat assembly elections, ten-term MLA Mohansinh Rathwa quit the Congress and joined the BJP. His son Rajendra Rathwa won the 2022 election on BJP's ticket from Chhota Udepur assembly seat.

On February 27 this year, Naran Rathwa, a five-term former Lok Sabha member and the then sitting Rajya Sabha member shifted from the Congress to BJP.

Talking to PTI, Sukhram Rathwa claimed, 'This is not likely to affect the Congress. Those who have joined the BJP have done so on their own and none of their supporters have gone with them.' 'They were not working for the Congress, but helping those in the BJP. I am confident of winning,' he said.

BJP candidate Jasu Rathwa, who unsuccessfully contested against Mohansinh Rathwa in the 2017 assembly election from Chhota Udepur, also said he is getting overwhelming support of the public.

"We will together make the lotus (BJP symbol) win with a lead of over 5.5 lakh votes as a tribute to PM Modi," he said.

"Modi talks of national interest, love for the nation, reaching out to the poor and to lift them from poverty," he said.

People have benefited from schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, PM Awas Yojana and free food grains to the poor, he said.

Out of around 10 lakh tribal voters in the seat, the Rathwa community accounts for 4 lakh. The remaining are from Baria, Dhorkoli, Bhil, Tadvi, Nayka and Vasava communities.

There are 2 lakh Kshatriya voters, the second largest community, whose members have been against the BJP over alleged derogatory remarks by its leader Parshottam Rupala. Muslims account for 1.22 lakh voters.

Former AAP leader Arjun Rathwa, who joined the Congress recently, said theirs is a progressive community, which is not just numerically but also socially and financially better positioned than other tribal groups.

"Leaders from the Rathwa community have been traditionally fielded by both the BJP and Congress, but this time the entire tribal community is with the Congress," he claimed.

People have received the Congress' 'paanch nyay' (five guarantees) with enthusiasm. They are also upset with the BJP after a fake government office scam was busted in the district where funds worth crores of rupees were allegedly duped in the name of irrigation projects, he added.

Rathwa community leaders have represented Chhota Udepur in Parliament since 1977.

Amarsinh Rathwa won on Congress' ticket in 1977, 1980 and 1984.

Naran Rathwa won for four consecutive terms from the Congress. He lost to BJP's Ramsinh Rathwa in 1999, won again in 2004, but faced defeat in 2009 and 2014.

In 2019, BJP's Gitaben Rathwa defeated Congress' Ranjitsinh Rathwa.

The BJP won all the seven assembly segments under this Lok Sabha seat in the 2022 polls.

Former Union minister Naran Rathwa, who is now with the BJP, said his party is well poised to retain the seat this time also.

"Now only Sukhram Rathwa is left in the Congress, all others have joined the BJP. The Congress has not won a single assembly seat and does not even have control over the district or taluka panchayat here. All Congress grassroot level workers have joined the BJP along with me," he said.

The wind is clearly blowing in BJP's direction and people understand this because they have witnessed the transformation in this once underdeveloped region, he said.

"I have been in the Rajya Sabha for six years and people are impressed by PM Modi. Those who believed in the Congress have also shifted to BJP. Only big leaders are left in the Congress, but their supporters at the grassroots have moved to the BJP," he claimed.

A major railway route connecting Indore in Madhya Pradesh to Vadodara in Gujarat, to be completed in six months, will help the people of Chhota Udepur, especially tribal labourers who migrate for work and cut down on their travel costs, said the former Minister of State for Railways.

Local social worker Somra Saeed Ahmed said the political equation in the region has changed significantly.

"The development here has touched all the communities. Communal riots is a thing of the past and people find peace in the BJP rule. The local municipality is with the Congress but it has not done much for the development of urban pockets," he said.

Vijaysinh Vasodiya, a Kshatriya community member, however, said the country needs a change in the top leadership and people should vote to oust the incumbent party.

Elections to all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat will be held on May 7.

Published 22 April 2024, 06:50 IST

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