The Congress won 15 of the 26 reserved tribal seats in Gujarat, up from its tally of 11 in 2002, if the party is looking for any solace in the poll figures after Sunday’s drubbing.
Five years ago, the BJP had won 13 seats and the remaining two had gone to the Janata Dal (United). While the Congress’s tally jumped from 11 to 15 this time, the BJP got 10 and JD (U) retained only one seat.
Similar to the trend in the rest of central Gujarat, the Congress performed well in the reserved seats in this region. The party snatched four seats from the BJP in the Dahod area and one in the Chhota Udepur region. In the Mandvi sector, too, the Congress grabbed seats from the BJP.
But the ruling party did well in south Gujarat, taking away four seats the Congress had won in 2002.
Sociologist Tridib Suhrud said the Congress’s good performance in central Gujarat was because the party worked through its own organisation in this region, instead of riding piggybank on rebels, like it did in Saurashtra.
The reason why the BJP did well in south Gujarat, said Suhrud from Ahmedabad, was because of the activism of the VHP. “The VHP is still active in the Dangs district, which is a largely tribal district bordering Madhya Pradesh. Their movement is against the apparent conversion to Christianity of the tribal population.”
GV Devi, the director of the Tejgad-based Tribal Academy, said the Congress managed to increase its vote percentage from 28 per cent in the tribal seats in 2002 to around 38 per cent this time. “But in a place like Chhota Udepur, the Congress lost despite increasing its vote percentage,” he said.
Devi added that going by the verdict, the BJP continued to have a hold over the tribals in regions like south Gujarat. “One reason for that could be that though the Congress-led UPA had promised to implement that Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, it is yet to do so,” he said.