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In three Hindi heartland states, how tribal parties left an imprint in Assembly polls | Political Pulse News

Amid the bipolar battle between BJP and Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, tribal parties may have won only five seats, but their influence appears writ large in at least 24 seats, including the constituency of Niwas where Union Minister Faggan Singh Kulaste lost to the Congress.

The parties stood second in four of the 24 constituencies. In the rest, they polled more votes than the victory margin of either the Congress or the BJP. The BJP took home 12 of these seats and the Congress won eight.

The parties — the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP), Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP), and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) — in effect had an impact on almost one-third of all the ST-reserved constituencies in the three Hindi heartland states (there are a total of 101 such seats). The BAP was the star performer winning five constituencies and standing second in four.

The Adivasi community featured prominently in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Assembly election victory speech on Sunday. “Today every poor person is saying that he lives on his own. Today, there is a feeling in the mind of every deprived person — he himself has won. Today every farmer is thinking the same thing — he himself has won. Today every tribal brother and sister is happy thinking that they have won,” he said.

The PM added, “Whether it is Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh or Telangana, all those who were in power are now out … This is because the youth of the country knows that the BJP has their interests at heart. In each state, seats dominated by the Adivasi community have seen the Congress being routed. These election results are a big lesson for Congress and its alliance of the arrogant.”

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The BAP contested 27 seats In Rajasthan, of which 17 were reserved for STs. The BAP won three of the ST-reserved seats, stood second in four, and polled more votes than the victory margin of either BJP or Congress in eight constituencies. The BJP won six of these seats and the Congress two.

Unlike other small parties that generally turn out to be vote-cutters with their vote share being just big enough to ensure the defeat of a particular party, the BAP appeared to be in real contest even in the seats where it came third. In these eight constituencies, the BAP secured more than 43,000 votes in each, and more than 33,000 votes in two other seats. In constituencies such as Salumber and Pratapgarh, it garnered more than 50,000 and over 60,000 votes respectively, getting very close to the tallies of both the BJP and the Congress.

The BTP, which contested 17 seats, did not make much of an impression barring Kherwara, where it stood third with over 53,000 votes. The BAP’s performance also stands out as it was part of BTP in 2018 but barring the two seats that BTP won then, the party did not garner votes higher than the victory margin in any of the ST seats.

Madhya Pradesh

Of the 47 seats that tribal parties contested in Madhya Pradesh, tribal parties not only bagged one (it went to BAP) but in the nine seats where tribal parties had more votes than victory margin, five were won by the Congress and four by the BJP. Of these, the GGP, which contested in alliance with the BSP, had an impact in seven and the BAP in two. The GGP polled more than 19,000 votes in Niwas, where Faggan Singh Kulaste lost to the Congress by 9,723 votes.


In Chhattisgarh, the GGP won one constituency and in three seats its votes polled are higher than the victory margin between the winner and the runner-up. Apart from Kanker that the Congress lost to the BJP by just 16 votes and where the GGP polled more than 4,000 votes, the GGP had an impact on both the Bharatpur and Pratappur constituencies that the BJP wrested from Congress.

The development is significant as both the BJP and the Congress have tried to reach out to Adivasi voters in these states in the past few years by either rolling out schemes for them, hailing their socio-cultural icons such as Birsa Munda and Govind Guru, or making promises about reservations and other privileges. The three Hindi belt states where elections were held have significant tribal populations — 31% of Chhattisgarh’s population is tribal, 21% of MP’s population, and 13.5% of people in Rajasthan.

In the run-up to the elections in Rajasthan, there was a sense of growing disenchantment among tribal voters in Rajasthan, particularly the young, with traditional parties that they felt took their votes but served the well-heeled communities. Issues of reservations, water scarcity, and lack of good educational facilities and healthcare in the remote tribal heartlands are among the reasons why Adivasis have tended to gravitate towards the new parties.

Most of these parties have also campaigned on these issues and played the identity card. A common refrain in tribal belts of Rajasthan was “Ye hamari party hai (This is our party).”

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