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Poll battle: In South Rajasthan, tribals on centre stage with their own party

About 100 kilometers from Udaipur, tribal-dominated Vagad in southern Rajasthan is witnessing a curious churning. Vying for political space in the tribal seats of southern Rajasthan is the newly-formed Bharatiya Adivasi Party (BAP).

Vagad, as the region is referred to, comprises largely Pratapgarh, Dungarpur Banswara, and parts of Udaipur districts which account for 15 seats. So far, like the rest of Rajasthan, the area has had a bipolar contest with Congress and BJP pitted against each other. However, it started witnessing rumblings of discontent as tribals felt neither party was representing their interests in totality. An outfit called Adivasi Parivar came up and decided to take the political plunge. Gujarat-based Chottubhai Vasava’s party Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) became the political vehicle for Adivasi Parivar in 2018 and it bagged two seats. About three months back, due to internal differences, BAP was formed and both MLAs – Rajkumar Roat (Chorasi MLA) and Ram Prasad Dindor (Sagwara) – joined it. Vasava’s two sons have thrown their weight behind the two tribal parties – older son Mahesh with BTP and younger Dilip with BAP.

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Dashrath Bhagora, a resident of Bicchiwara block in Dungarpur, says, “BAP has taken the area by storm. It is the only party which is talking about issues affecting the tribals.” Residents say the region has tested both Congress and the BJP and they just get elected. “Nobody knows the tribal sub-plan area like BAP does,” says Bhagora, who is now campaigning for BAP. How much the issue of tribal identity is gaining traction in this belt can be gauged by the fact that its student party – Bhil Pradesh Vidyarthi Morcha – routed NSUI and ABVP and swept 21 college elections.

It is BAP that has caught the fancy of tribals in this region. Rajkumar, a daily wage laborer in Dungarpur, says, “Aandhi hai BAP (BAP is a storm).” The impact can be seen as even with a new party symbol of a hockey stick, BAP candidates, including their number on EVM, are known. BTP is putting up a brave fight well aware that if its candidates do not do well, it could be the end of the road in Rajasthan. BAP leaders say that Chorasi, Sagwara, Dungarpur, and Aspur are the strongest seats and it could be the end of the road in Rajasthan. BAP leaders say that Chorasi, Sagwara, Dungarpur, and Aspur are the strongest seats and it could win more. In 2018, while contesting his first election under the BTP symbol of auto, Umesh had lost by 5,300 votes. This time he has been fielded by BAP and is hoping to win the seat. There are enough troubles for the Congress and BJP -they are being termed as “outsiders” and their own rebels apart from BAP and BTP candidates are cutting into their traditional votes.

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