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BJP to woo tribals in poll-bound states

New Delhi: As Droupadi Murmu took charge as India’s 15th President, the BJP is all set to step up its tribal outreach strategy in the four poll-bound states. While Gujarat will be going to the polls later this year, elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are due in early 2023.

According to the 2011 census, Gujarat has a tribal population of nearly 16 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 22 per cent, Rajasthan 15 per cent and Chhattisgarh nearly 30 per cent. Of the four, two are Congress-ruled states. After forming the government in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party has stepped up its political activities in Gujarat.

BJP leaders have fanned out across the country and are holding rallies to highlight its role in electing the first tribal woman President of India.

That the tribals’ political assertiveness and ambitions have been growing over the years had become amply clear after the formation of the Bharatiya Tribal Party in Gujarat in 2017. Speculation is rife that the BTP could join hands with the AAP.

The BJP’s electoral record in the tribal belt has been “somewhat poor”, a party leader said. It was pointed out that the four poll-bound states have 128 reserved seats for the STs, 47 in MP, 29 in Chhattisgarh, 27 in Gujarat and 25 in Rajasthan.

“During the last Assembly elections we had won only 35 of the 128 reserved seats,” the leader said.

In her maiden speech as President, Murmu invoked the country’s tribal legacy and said she was pleased to see that “Many museums are being built across the country dedicated to the role of tribal communities in our freedom struggle”. Earlier, after nominating Ms Murmu as the NDA’s candidate for President, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the party leaders to hold small rallies and meetings in all tribal villages. The President’s official photographs and her views on tribals will be distributed in all these villages, the BJP leader said.

In Gujarat, after a series of protests by the tribal community, the Centre decided to put on hold its Par Tapi Narmada river linking project. In May, during a BJP “Chintan Shivir”, discussions were held to “increase (its) footprint” in the tribal belts in Gujarat.

Besides the state polls, the selection of Murmu as the NDA candidate is also expected to help the BJP make major inroads into the tribal politics. Some party leaders felt that in Maoist-hit states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Murmu taking over as the first tribal woman President would send a major signal. This also “highlights the Sangh Parivar’s concept of an “Akhand Bharat” coming together with a coalition of castes and the party’s faith in “sabka saath sabka vikas”.