New Delhi, October 5
Ahead of Assembly elections later this year, the race for Scheduled Tribes (ST) votes heated up in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday with star campaigners of both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress feting local tribal heroes, besides wooing women electors.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in tribal-dominated Jabalpur where he laid the foundation stone of Gond warrior queen Rani Durgavati’s Memorial and attacked the Congress for sufficing to “sing praises of one family” while “ignoring all other national heroes.”
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was in another ST-dominated district, Dhar, where she unveiled the statue of tribal hero Tantya Mama, a revered Bhil revolutionary who fought the British.
The Prime Minister in his remarks at the election rally questioned the Congress for “eulogising only one family during their entire rule in the country”.
Without naming the Congress, PM said, “The party that ruled India for decades did only one thing—eulogised one family. Neither did the nation attain Independence due to one family nor did it develop because of one family alone...Our government has honoured national icons like Dr BR Ambedkar, Sant Ravidas, Rani Kamlapati and now Rani Durgavati,” the PM said.
In Mohankheda of Dhar, Vadra described the just passed Women’s Reservation Bill as a “joke played on women”.
“The Bill will not be implemented for ten years...What is the point then? You are treating women as a joke. Reservation is our right,” said Priyanka, batting for caste census and also asking why ED was not raiding BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh where, she said, “there have been hundreds of scams in 18 years of BJP rule.”
The presence of PM and Priyanka in ST areas of MP today and their salutations to tribal legends mirror the importance of the ST vote in a state with the highest tribal population in India. Over 21% of MP’s population is tribal, as against 9% national average, making the segment a major swing factor in polls.
Of the state’s 230 Assembly seats, 47 are reserved for STs. While the BJP won 31 of these in 2013, it suffered a setback in 2018 when the Congress bagged 30 and it was left with 16. The Congress also bagged a greater vote share among STs in 2018 MP polls -- 42.93% as against BJP’s 38.89%.
Overall, the BJP dominated the ST seats in four out of six (Assembly and Lok Sabha) polls held since 2008.
The saffron party fell behind the Congress in MP’s ST seats only in 2009 Lok Sabha and 2018 state polls.
In SC seats (35 out of 230), however, both parties were almost neck and neck in 2018, with the BJP bagging 18 and Congress 17 with respective vote shares of 42.14 % and 42.44 %.
Having lost power to the Congress by a whisker in 2018 (BJP had won 107 seats and Congress 114), the BJP is seeking to reclaim its ST vote in the state this time.
The BJP Government at the Centre is celebrating the 500th birth centenary of Rani Durgavati, the Queen of Gondwana who resisted Mughal expansion, this year.
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