Social activist Medha Patkar believes that the BJP has fielded tribal leader Draupadi Murmu as the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) Presidential candidate only because the community forms a major part of the vote bank but the party is not pro-Adivasi.
Wondering what could Draupadi Murmu who could not bring electricity to her native village, or Yashwant Sinha, the Presidential nominee of major Opposition parties and an economist, could do after being elected, Ms. Patkar claimed that a President becomes the rubber stamp of the ruling party.
"They [the BJP] want a tribal person like her and celebrate Birsa Munda Jayanti because they know that Adivasis form a major part of the vote bank in several States such as Madhya Pradesh. They cannot claim to be pro-Advasi by not granting them forest rights and planning to hand over forests to the corporates," Ms. Patkar told PTI in a telephone interview.
Referring to the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, to celebrate the birth anniversary of revered tribal leader and freedom fighter Birsa Munda in November last year, she claimed that there were incidents of violence against tribal people at that time.
"Modi-ji went to Bhopal and spent more than ₹30 crore for a one-day function. At the same time, incidents of lynching of tribal people had taken place in Madhya Pradesh itself," said Ms. Patkar, who has been fighting for the cause of tribal communities.
The founder member of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) also alleged that the BJP has not implemented laws such as Jawaharlal Nehru's Tribal Panchsheel, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and Forest Rights Act.
The Tribal Panchsheel was the guiding principle to formulate policies for the indigenous communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
"If they (the BJP government) truly respect the Adivasi community, they should implement the laws. They need to respect the struggle (of the tribal people) and grant them their rights and not just celebrate [tribal festivals]," she stated.
Other than electoral politics, there is also a relationship between the State and the people which matters. This relationship is becoming undemocratic and violent, she said.
Ms. Patkar also raised doubts about how much Ms. Murmu, if elected the country's next President, would be able to work for the rights of the tribal and Dalit communities.
She said, "Not only the President but also a Governor has the rights in the Constitution to protect the interest of Adivasis and Dalits. He or she can stop the application of any law which is against the interest of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. But will she really be able to do her best?" One has to understand that the President becomes the rubber stamp of the ruling party, Ms. Patkar asserted.
She said that it is unfortunate that political parties select candidates for the Presidential election despite it being a non-party battle.
"Do not know what Yashwant Sinha's economic paradigm is going to do or what powers will Droupadi Murmu, who could not get electricity in her own village, have,” Ms. Patkar said.
The Presidential election will be held on July 18. Elected MPs and MLAs constitute the electoral college. Nominated MPs and MLAs and members of legislative councils cannot vote in the presidential election.