Tue, 20 Nov 2012 19:30:00 GMT | By IANS

Congress, BJP in close contest for tribal votes

Adivasis comprise 14-15 percent of Gujarat's population and both parties have put men and money to chase their votes

Congress, BJP in close contest for tribal votes (© Reuters)

Ahmedabad: The tribal parts of the state, called Poorvi Patti (Eastern Belt), constitute 26 of Gujarat's 182 constituencies. Adivasis comprise 14-15 percent (five million) of Gujarat's population.

There are 37 tribes in the state. The majority of these are Bhils, who in turn are subdivided into Vasavas and Rathwas. Other tribes include Dhodias, Chaudharys, Gamits and Halapatis.

The spoils were divided equally between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), now making its third bid for power, and the Congress in the last elections.
And this time is likely to be no different, say analysts with the BJP not doing enough for the development in the area and the Congress unable to play up the ruling party's failures. "It is going to be close," said Satyakam Joshi from the Surat-based Centre for Social Studies (CSS).

"Gujarat's adivasis (tribals) are not very happy with a decade of Modi's rule. Disparities have increased a lot. But so has polarisation. Things are not well with the Congress either. I can predict 12-13 seats for the BJP. A lot will depend on the Congress' choice of candidates," Joshi told IANS.

After Gujarat was carved out of the Bombay Presidency in 1960, one of its chief ministers, the Congress' Madhavsinh Solanki (who served four terms), pioneered the politics of KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim)’ in the 1970s and 80s. The formula worked and succeeded in garnering votes for the Congress.

But with the rise of the Hindu right, Gujarat's tribal areas became a battleground between Sangh outfits and evangelical Christian missionaries seeking 'to harvest' tribal souls.

With Sangh outfits making inroads into tribal areas, the Poorvi Patti is no longer a Congress stronghold and will see a close fight Dec 13 and 17.

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