With an eye on Gujarat's tribals, BJP and Congress outreach in Rajasthan

With their respective tribal outreach in the region, the BJP and Congress are attempting to usurp the political space of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP)
Last Updated 30 October 2022, 18:20 IST

The ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan are trying their best to woo the tribal population of the state, as also of neighbouring Gujarat, which is poll-bound.

In Rajasthan, the BJP is hosting a public gathering on November 1 at the Mangarh Dham in Banswara, a district with a 76 per cent tribal population. In Sunday's broadcast of his Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he will be attending the event at Mangarh, which he pointed out was on the Rajasthan-Gujarat border. The PM said the event will honour the memory of the tribals the British gunned down in November 1913.

Alert to the BJP's move to use the event as its tribal outreach with Gujarat set to go to the polls by December and Rajasthan a year from now, the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in the state does not want its political opponent to walk away with any credit. Earlier this month, Gehlot had written to the PM that the Mangarh Dham be declared a 'national monument'.

For the tribals of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (slated for elections in December 2023), the Mangarh Dham is a sacred site. On November 17, 1913, the British forces killed an estimated 1500 Bhil tribals in Mangarh. The massacre took place six years before Jallianwalla Bagh and is also referred to as the Adivasi Jallianwala.

With their respective tribal outreach in the region, the BJP and Congress are attempting to usurp the political space of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP). The BTP was founded in 2017 by seven-time Gujarat MLA Chhotubhai Vasava. The BTP commands the support of Bhil Adivasis of southern Rajasthan.

The principal demands of the BTP are implementing a separate Adivasi code, the rights guaranteed in the constitution, and adherence to the Supreme Court's Samata judgement, which relates to mining in reserved areas.

Traditionally, Bhils had been Congress voters, but in the 2018 Assembly polls elected BTP candidates as their MLAs from Sangwara and Chorasi seats. The Congress and BJP's vote share fell sharply in the 2018 polls compared to the 2013 polls in these two constituencies.

In July 2020, when Congress in Rajasthan was in crisis after an open rebellion by Sachin Pilot, the BTP extended its support to the ruling party. However, in October 2020, the BTP accused Congress of preferring BJP over it in the Zila Pramukh elections in Dungarpur.

The BTP also accuses the Congress government of not delivering on its promises to the tribals, including a 17-point memorandum submitted to the government and the laxity it showed in dealing with violence in Dungarpur in September this year.

The BJP hopes to exploit this disaffection in its favour with the PM addressing the tribals of the region.

(The writer is a senior journalist based in Rajasthan.)

(Published 30 October 2022, 18:20 IST)

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