The emergence of a new tribal party may play spoiler in the poll calculations of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress in south Rajasthan.

The Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) is contesting 11 seats across the state and all four in Dungarpur district in the upcoming December 7 polls.

Founded by tribal leader Chhotubhai Vasava in Gujarat in 2017 after he parted ways with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), the BTP has expanded to neighbouring Rajasthan. It also has a presence in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Political analysts see the debutant party as a “spoiler” in the adjoining tribal districts of Dungarpur, Banswara and Pratapgarh in south Rajasthan.

Adivasis constitute 73% of Dungarpur’s 1.4 million population. While the adivasis are divided among the three parties, the non-tribal vote is expected to play a decisive role in the poll outcome in the district.

“The BTP is popular among the younger generation, especially students. I think that it might play the role of spoiler in some constituencies. The only drawback right now is that BTP has not been in existence for a long time,” said Sanjay Lodha, a professor at Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur.

Velaram Ghogara, head of BTP’s Rajasthan unit, said, “We will not be the spoilers but winners this time. The tribals are disappointed with all the other parties, which have done nothing for them in the past 70 years. We want to empower the tribals and that is why we decided to contest the elections,” he said.

In 2013, the BJP had won all four seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes – Aspur, Chorasi, Dungarpur and Sagwara – in the district, which was till then a Congress bastion. In fact, that year the Congress lost from Dungarpur city for the first time since 1980.

“They (BTP) have no standing even among the tribals. They have limited impact in this area. We will record a massive victory in all the four seats in Dungarpur,” senior Congress leader Tarachand Bhagora said, dismissing the suggestion that the BTP will hurt its chances more than the BJP’s.

“Our vote is intact and BTP will have no impact on us. We will retain all the four seats,” BJP functionary Sudarshan Jain said.

However, the BJP is facing rebel trouble. The two strong, rebel candidates in the fray are sitting legislators Devendra Katara (Dungarpur) and Anita Katara (Sagwara) who were denied the party ticket this time.

The BTP’s main demands include implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, which legally recognises the right of adivasis to protect and manage their lands, besides specific schemes for adivasi students and the revival of adivasi culture.

Rajasthan will vote on December 7.

The BTP’s decision to contest the assembly polls came soon after the Bhil Pradesh Vidyarthi Morcha, the BTP’s student wing, swept the elections in all four colleges in Dungarpur in September, defeating both the National Students Union of India (NSUI) of the Congress and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

After the college elections, Ghogara said there were demands from different quarters to contest the assembly polls. “So, we approached Chhotubhai. We told him that we should have a separate party that will work for the development of tribals in Rajasthan,” he said.

“But we categorically told Chhotubhai that there was no question of supporting or having an alliance with either the BJP or the Congress. He agreed,” Ghogara added.

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 09:39 IST

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