To beat anti-incumbency in MP, BJP eyes tribal and Dalit outreach in seats where it has performed poorly
New Delhi: With assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh due next year, the BJP high command has asked the party’s state unit to focus on predominantly tribal and Dalit seats where it has failed behaved in the last election, ThePrint has learned.
BJP Chairman JP Nadda and General Secretary (Organization) BL Santhosh met with the Madhya Pradesh Party Central Committee in New Delhi on Thursday to draw up a game plan for next year’s elections.
Party sources with knowledge of the meeting said that the BJP not only asked the state unit to devote efforts to seats dominated by scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, but also to expand the cabinet in order to accommodate more tribal members.
Furthermore, according to sources, it was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the ideological source of the BJP – which recommended more aggressive outreach towards the SC and ST communities to combat anti-incumbency. At the meeting, an RSS member also reportedly raised concerns about organizations such as the Islamist Popular Front of India making inroads into the MP’s tribal belt.
Madhya Pradesh leaders present at the meeting included Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, State Home Minister Narottam Mishra, BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP Responsible MP Muralidhar Rao and Minister of Union Narendra Singh Tomar.
Senior RSS official Arun Kumar, who oversees coordination between the BJP and the Sangh, was also present.
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“We must focus on restoring the confidence of Dalits and tribes”
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP sources said Union Home Secretary Amit Shah did a ‘stocktaking exercise’ during his visit to the MP’s capital, Bhopal, at the start of the month and had already suggested various measures to be taken before the elections. During his April 22 visit to MP, Shah had also made a point of addressing a major tribal function.
“Since we started preparations for the assembly elections in advance, one of our concerns was our latest performance in the predominantly tribal areas. This needs to be strengthened and more needs to be done for the Dalit communities and tribal,” a BJP leader said.
According to him, the RSS also emphasized the need to regain the support of these communities, and suggested “small steps” on how to achieve this.
Another BJP leader said the aim was to beat anti-incumbency through organizational awareness and “convert it into pro-incumbency, as in the case of Uttar Pradesh”.
Vis-a-vis a possible expansion of the cabinet, sources said that Sulochana Rawat – who defected from Congress and won the seat of the tribally majority Jobat assembly in an indirect vote last year – is a possible inductee. There may also be cabinet additions to give more representation to the SC community.
Among voters in Madhya Pradesh, 21.5% are indigenous and 15.6% are Dalits, but a large portion of these groups did not vote enthusiastically for the BJP in 2018.
Also since then, the state has made headlines for an increase in caste-based crimes, forcing the BJP to change its perception ahead of the 2023 elections and reverse the trend.
Of the 230 seats in the state assembly, 47 are reserved for STs and there are 35 general seats where the tribal population is at least 50,000. It also has 35 seats reserved for SCs.
Between 2013 and 2018, the BJP lost many seats in the Dalit and Tribal belts: among the 47 ST seats, the party’s tally fell to 16 in 2018 from 31 in the 2013 state elections. Congress won the remaining 31 seats in 2018.
Similarly, among the 35 reserved SC seats, the BJP’s tally fell by 11, winning just 17 seats in 2018 from 28 in 2013.
(Editing by Asavari Singh)
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