Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Focus: Who Will Adivasis Favour This Time In Rajasthan?

By Ibrahim Shikhawat / Jaipur

Electoral battles in Rajasthan have traditionally been a direct battle between the two biggies— the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With 25 seats reserved adivasis (tribals) in the 200-member Assembly, they form an important part of the election calculus of the main contenders.  In the 2008 election, the adivasis supported the Congress en masse, leading to its victory. However, in 2003 elections the BJP was the recipient of the majority of adivasi votes.
With this in mind, both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi have assiduously targeted the adivasis in the hope of garnering their complete support.  After the party’s inability to gain the support of the adivasi voters in 2008 elections, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has made it his mission to leave no stone unturned to woo them.

While Congress questions Modi’s claim of building a secular India, the BJP leader also do not miss any opportunity to criticise the Gehlot government over the communal riots at Gopalgarh in 2009. In the recent Jaipur rally, Modi lashed out at Congress. He asked:

“Do you have faith in a government in which the Human Rights Commission and Minorities Commission do not have trust? Minorities Commission said that this state government cannot protect minorities. So can you trust this state government?” he had asked.

“The governor of Rajasthan who is from Congress… what did she say? If you cannot implement tribal welfare schemes, then let me do it. Would you like this type of government to stay in the state? They have ruined Rajasthan.”

With the vicious fight between the two political parties going on, and both having a clear agenda to woo the minority voters, it would be interesting to see which way the tribal verdict goes.

Congress, BJP woo tribals ahead of Rajasthan polls: The substantial number of tribal votes in poll-bound Rajasthan has prompted the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress Government and the main Oppositon BJP to come up with strategies to woo the tribal voters.

And the BJP will field its star campaigner and Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to wean the tribal electorate away from the Congress, which they had overwhelmingly supported in the last Assembly elections. As part of the state BJP’s poll strategy, Modi will hold a tribal rally in scenic Udaipur -- also known as the ‘City of Lakes’-- on Saturday to hit out at the  Congress. Incidentally, the Udaipur rally is scheduled to take place on the eve of the Gujarat strongman’s ‘Hunkar’ rally in Patna on Sunday.

While the tribal rally will most certainly highlight Modi’s high-octane campaign style, it will be of considerable political significance to the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP, which is hoping for a comeback in the state after a gap of five years.

In fact, the Udaipur region accounts for as many as 16 out of the total 25 Reserved (ST) seats in the state. And it was the ‘mass rejection’ of the BJP in the tribal seats in the 2008 elections which tilted the balance of power in the Congress’ favour and enabled the party to secure 96 seats in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly. The BJP had got 78 seats, with the BSP, JD(U) and SP winning just one seat apiece, while the independent candidates bagged four seats. 

Interestingly, the tribals had voted en masse for the BJP in the 2003 elections, which saw Raje becoming the state’s first woman Chief Minister. Meanwhile, the electoral arithmetic clearly explains the focus on the tribal vote as both the BJP and Congress have fielded their star campaigners to turn the tide.

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