Tribals hold key for BSP in Chhattisgarh | india | Hindustan Times
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Tribals hold key for BSP in Chhattisgarh

The BSP is reworking its strategy to customise it for Chhattisgarh. The reason: Tribals, not on the radar of the BSP in a major way with upper castes hogging the limelight for now, are in an overwhelming majority in the state.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2008 00:21 IST
Ejaz Kaiser

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is reworking its strategy to customise it for Chhattisgarh. The reason: Tribals, not on the radar of the BSP in a major way with upper castes hogging the limelight for now, are in an overwhelming majority in the state.

Although the BSP made headway in Chhattisgarh, then a part of Madhya Pradesh, till her mentor Kanshi Ram was alive, the state was not on the priority list of BSP chief Mayawati till recently.

In a sense, Kanshi Ram began his political journey from here. He contested his first election in 1984 from Janjgir — a constituency about 170 km from Raipur, the state capital. It was also the year when he formed the BSP. Kanshi Ram lost the election, but the BSP registered its presence.

On his part, Kanshi Ram nurtured the Satnami sect and rarely missed attending their annual fair. For, Satnampanth was formed in the 19th century by Ghasidas, a Scheduled Caste spiritual leader who was later elevated to the status of a guru.

With a visible presence in some districts, the Satnamis are seen as the BSP’s traditional vote-bank, according to BSP functionaries camping here. Satnami Manku Das, for instance, swears by Kanshi Ram. A plumber by profession, he sees Mayawati as his leader’s political heir, but admits that he and his family have never even seen her.

Now, the state has suddenly become a priority for Mayawati, BSP’s state unit chief Dauram Ratnakar told Hindustan Times. He said the party leaders have been instructed to mobilise cadres. “She did this much before elections were announced,” he said, asserting, “At the moment, there are only the Congress and the BJP. The BSP intends to alter this.”

Conceding that it is too early to make a decisive impact in the forthcoming elections, BSP leaders said the decision to contest all the seats was to make the electorate aware of the party. “In many constituencies, our deposits will be forfeited, but that’s a small price to pay for being visible.” a BSP candidate, requesting anonymity, said.

Add to this the fact that Mayawati has, according to the local BSP leaders, taken it upon herself to recreate the party’s base here. And that is reason enough for the Congress and the BJP to be worried.

Now, what Mayawati has to do is find a leader from among the tribals themselves, as Kanshi Ram admitted in a public meeting in Raipur in 1999 that the BSP had failed to create a tribal leader. That the party has given the maximum number of tickets to tribals this time seems to be the first step towards that direction.