Everyone says Velaram Gogra, a tribal and an Independent candidate fighting the assembly elections for the third time, is an honest man. But they won’t vote for him. Gogra, an MA, LLB, still doesn’t get it. He has hopes of mainstream acceptance.
With rapid social fragmentation within the tribal bloc (Bhils, Meenas, Garasias and Bagrias lobby for power in Rajasthan), the criterion for potential candidates is winnability, not educational qualifications. “I wanted to fight on a Congress ticket but they didn’t give it to me. Both the Congress and the BJP want a person who can finger-stamp, not sign.”
The BJP’s Sushila Bhil and Congressman Lal Shankhar Kathiar, both high school dropouts, are in the fray with him. They have
more to give. Sushila’s party is wooing the women with saris and goats and the Congress is doing the same.
All that Gogra has to offer is an idea. Since March 2008, he has been trying to register his Jambukhand Party, a pan-Indian tribal party with 300 members. “Like the Jharkhand tribals, we will raise our own issues. We demand partnership in small enterprises, waterbank planning, an Eklavya University.”
Most independent tribal movements get co-opted, said sociologist Naresh Bhargav. “Those who win on BJP or Congress tickets forget about tribal issues after winning, and toe the line from Jaipur,” he said.
“There is no one to tell the tribal that the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is the Congress’s brainchild,” said Prof. Sanjay Lodha.
The ‘real’ change in tribal electoral behaviour, claimed former Sarpanch Parmanand Mehta, began with the 1992 Panchayati Raj reservations.
Bheerji Meena, the nephew of Sarpanch Rodi Lal, a Congressman-turned-BJP adivasi, confirmed this trend. His wife votes Congress. His uncle has switched sides. “He agreed to be the Rajputs’ man,” he said. Why? The answer is fairly simple. Goats.