Ahead of Assembly polls, BJP reaches out to tribes in four Northern states

Ahead of Assembly polls, BJP reaches out to tribes in four Northern states
BJP has begun a drive to reach out to tribes in four states which will go to the polls this year end or next. Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh together have 128 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes and BJP could win only 35 seats in the last assembly elections held in 2017 and 2018.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was in Gujarat earlier this week addressed a rally in tribal dominated Dahod district, which was attended by tribes from five other districts. Wearing a jacket and headgear familiar to the tribes, Modi recalled sacrifices of Birsa Munda and other heroes. He mentioned work initiated for welfare of tribes during his tenure as CM. Gujarat is a state where Congress fared better than BJP in 2017, winning 15 out of 27 ST seats, while BJP won 9.

Modi had begun his outreach in MP by addressing a Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas in Bhopal last November. Home minister Amit Shah followed this up in Bhopal on Friday by addressing a rally of tendu leaf pickers. “MP has 21% tribe population. Without ensuring their welfare, the state cannot develop,” Shah said.

Several schemes and soaps were announced for tendu leaf pickers. Shah also announced the state government’s plan to convert 827 forest villages into revenue villages. They have mostly tribal population and development has been restricted because of forest land. Shah said that the Modi government had increased allocation for development of tribes to Rs 78,000 crore, ‘which was Rs 21,000 crore during the Congress regime’. “For the first time, a state government is working to give tribes 20% of the income earned from forests,” Shah said on an announcement made by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

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Congress had won 86 seats of the 128 seats reserved for STs in the four states. In MP out of 47 ST reserved seats, Congress won 31, while BJP won 16 in 2018. In May, Shah will address similar meetings in Rajasthan’s Banswara, a tribal dominated region. BJP president JP Nadda had addressed a tribe conclave in Sawai Madhopur district earlier this month. Out of 25 ST seats in Rajasthan, Congress represents 13 and BJP 8 at the moment.

In the fourth state the BJP is targeting, Congress had won 27 out of 29 ST reserved seats in 2018, while BJP managed only two seats in Chhattisgarh. While a visit of Modi, Shah or Nadda to Chhattisgarh has not been planned yet, several Union ministers visited the state this month. Visits of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Hardeep Puri, Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, Ashwini Choubey, Devusinh Chauhan and Arjun Meghwal will be followed by three more ministers before the month ends. Ten districts in Chhattisgarh have a high tribe population, including seven districts of Bastar division. The ministers travelled to these district to see how funds for aspirational districts were utilised to prepare a report to the Centre.

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