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2 years before polls, Madhya Pradesh BJP has new target: ‘Become party of tribals and Dalits’

Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tribals in India at about 21.5% of the state’s population according to the 2011 Census, while SCs constitute 15.6 per cent.

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New Delhi: Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are around two years away, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already made plans to plug the gaps it sees as having cost the party the first rank in the 2018 polls.

A key part of this strategy is outreach towards the state’s tribals and Dalits. 

According to sources in the BJP, vast sections of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs) in Madhya Pradesh don’t support the party, a factor attributed to inadequate representation for the communities in the BJP organisation.

Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tribals in India — about 21.5 per cent of the state’s population (2011 Census) — while SCs comprise 15.6 per cent. As many as 47 of the state’s seats are reserved for STs. In 2018, the BJP won 16 seats in Madhya Pradesh’s tribal-dominated areas, against 31 in 2013. Of the 35 seats reserved for the SCs, the BJP won 17 in 2018, as compared to 28 in 2013.

“We will concentrate on SC and ST voters and make BJP a party of SCs/STs. Programmes are already being launched for the SC and ST population,” said a senior BJP leader who did not wish to be named. “Currently, we get 30-35 per cent of the votes from the community and the target is to reach 75 per cent. We want to ensure that people view us as a party for all sections of society.” 

To this end, the party is eyeing a multi-pronged strategy — right from government programmes and organisational changes in the party, to launching cultural programmes. 

While state leaders have been asked to focus on this, iconic SC/ST figures are being identified for the conduct of programmes meant to recognise their work. 

On 18 September, Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited Jabalpur and took part in an event to honour tribal heroes, where he also talked about the BJP’s work for their development. 

Speaking to ThePrint, Madhya Pradesh BJP in-charge P. Muralidhar Rao said the party’s “organisation expansion and future consolidation will be focussed on the tribal population and also the Scheduled Castes”. 

“We will undertake campaigns, programmes and all other efforts to achieve this,” he added.  

The BJP emerged as the second-largest party in the 2018 election, winning 109 seats, just shy of the Congress’ tally of 114 in the 230-member MP assembly. 

However, it managed to form the government in March 2020 after Jyotiraditya Scindia, now a Union minister, defected to the BJP with 22 Congress MLAs.

Also Read: Why BJP is losing grip on Nagpur, Congress is clawing back lost ground in former stronghold

‘Eyes on weakening Congress base’

The BJP has held power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003, barring just over a year when Congress’ Kamal Nath was chief minister. But a large section of the SC and ST communities have still not extended their support to it, sources said.

According to the sources, during the BJP’s state working committee meeting last month, the issue of launching outreach programmes for tribals and Dalits was discussed, with a number of leaders stressing that the party needs to focus on them. 

The party, sources said, has also identified 35 constituencies in the state that it has not won for the past many years. 

“A special team will be constituted for this and will look into the reason why we have not won these seats and what needs to be done,” said a second BJP leader. 

A third BJP leader said targets have been given to all local members — right from booth to mandal and district levels — to look at the past three elections and increase the party’s vote share by at least 10 per cent. 

“A large section of the SC and ST communities does support us but at the same time there are some subsections we need to reach out to. Once we manage to do that, we will be in a much better situation politically for the next elections,” the leader added.

The BJP is also believed to be concerned about the fact that a number of SCs and STs continue to support the Congress. “We are making specific plans to reach out to all the subsections within the SC and ST communities. This will help us weaken the base of the Congress,” the third leader said.  

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Why mass base is no comfort to Yediyurappas, Rajes and Singhs in Modi-Shah’s BJP


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