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Tribal nominee poses challenge to mainstream parties in Rajasthan bypoll

Photo used only for representational purpose.  

A tribal youth chosen by community elders to contest as an independent candidate, largely because development issues in the area were ignored, is posing a tough challenge to the mainstream political parties for the Dhariawad Assembly bypoll scheduled for October 30.

Thawarchand Damor, 26, is likely to upset the prospects of half-a-dozen other contestants.

An increase in the reservation for tribals in the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) area is a major electoral plank in the constituency because of high unemployment among youth. The voters feel that successive Congress and BJP governments have ignored the issue, despite its provision in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Instead, they say, “undue benefits” have been extended to other communities, which comprise barely 20% of the region’s population.

Mr. Damor has promised to work for establishing a Krishi Upaj Mandi and bringing better medical facilities to the constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribes, which is spread across two districts — Pratapgarh and Udaipur.

Jolt to BTP

The nascent Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), which has two MLAs from the adjacent Dungarpur district, is also feeling the heat of Mr. Damor’s candidature. One of its legislators, Rajkumar Roat from Chorasi, has joined Mr. Damor’s election campaign, making an appeal to the tribal voters to support him.

Established in neighbouring Gujarat in 2017, the BTP entered the electoral fray in Rajsthan in 2018 and won the Chorasi and Sagwara seats and extended support to the ruling Congress after the government formation.

However, the party severed ties with the Congress and withdrew support to the ruling party in December 2020 when the latter allegedly blocked the election of a BTP-backed independent candidate to the post of Zila Pramukh in Dungarpur during the panchayat elections.

Campaign via awareness

Mr. Damor's election agent Nilesh Barot told The Hindu that while the BTP had started wielding a considerable influence in the tribal-dominated regions of southern Rajasthan, this was the first instance of a tribal youth directly confronting the political parties. “As an educated young crusader, Thawarchand Ji has been organising chintan shivirs (discussion forums) in hamlets and has generated awareness among tribals about their rights,” he said.

Mr. Barot said Dhariawad was steeped in poverty and ignorance despite being the highest cereal producer in Udaipur division. Farmers would vote with the expectation to get water supply in the tail-ends of Jakham Canal, while the people in the town hoped for better medical, civic and education facilities, he said.

The byelection was necessitated after the death of sitting BJP MLA Gautam Lal Meena because of COVID-19 infection in May this year.

The BJP, which persuaded Mr. Meena’s son Kanhaiya Lal to withdraw his nomination, has fielded former Sarpanch Sangh president Khet Singh Meena, who is considered a loyalist of Gulab Chand Kataria, the seniormost BJP leader in the Mewar region.

Congress candidate and former MLA Nagraj Meena, who was defeated by Mr. Gautam Lal Meena in the 2018 Assembly election, has been helping the people since the outbreak of pandemic last year. Block Congress Committee president Madan Singh Ghatela said Mr. Meena’s popularity among all communities would be reflected on the polling day, as he took good care of the constituency during his tenures twice as a legislator.

Among the three panchayat samiti areas in the constituency, Lasadiya has a considerable presence of BJP supporters, while Congress has an upper hand in Jhallara. Dhariawad panchayat samiti, where the maximum number of voters reside, is likely to witness the division tribal votes, making the ballot of non-tribals important, for which the mainstream parties are making great efforts.

The BTP’s official candidate Ganesh Meena is likely to bear the brunt of division in the tribal votes because of Mr. Damor's candidature.

State for tribals

The outcome of Dhariawad byelection will also make an impact on the movement spearheaded by tribal groups for creation of a separate State, Bhil Pradesh, to be carved out of the tribal-dominated areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The issue has gained strength after the victory of the two BTP candidates in 2018.

Tribal outfits in the State have already demanded inclusion of over 165 village panchayats of seven districts in the scheduled areas under the TSP to facilitate the control of local communities over minor minerals and minor forest produce as well as development activities in the region. The scheduled areas at present comprise 5,697 villages in southern Rajasthan, having a tribal population of more than 50%, as notified in 2018.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 9:19:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tribal-nominee-poses-challenge-to-mainstream-parties-in-rajasthan-bypoll/article37164972.ece

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