When two political friends become foes, a third party often benefits. This time, the face-off has worked in favour of Maharashtra’s nomadic tribes.
For once, both the Opposition and ruling parties have taken up their cause, demanding justice for them on the same day in two public rallies — one at Azad Maidan, the other at Shivaji Park.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held its annual rally for Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) on the south Mumbai ground on Monday morning, while Haribhau Rathod, rebel BJP Member of Parliament, held one for denotified tribes like the Banjaras (nomads) at Shivaji Park in the afternoon.
BJP national general secretary Gopinath Munde attended his party's meet while his former colleague’s rally drew the chief minister and his deputy.
The demands were similar. Both demanded the implementation of the Renke Commission report. The commission was set up to study the status of denotified tribes and suggest measures for their upliftment.
Both rallies were well attended, but those who organised them denied they were competing for the community's votes.
“I am a small party worker,” joked Munde. “I am not a big leader like Haribhau Rathod, so how can there be competition?”
Rathod, who was expelled from the BJP for not voting in favour of the party during the no-confidence motion in Parliament in July, said he wanted the Congress to continue in power in the hope that it would implement the Renke Commission report.
“The Congress cannot be expected to give these tribes justice if it hasn’t done so in 10 years,” Munde pointed out. “As for Haribhau Rathod, our demands are the same.”
Rathod, who is yet to formally join the Congress, seemed unperturbed. “Consider our rally as a Congress effort and theirs as a BJP effort,” said Rathod. “If both are asking for the same thing, it is good.”
CM Ashok Chavan, who spoke at Rathod’s rally, said that the state government would request the Centre to implement the Renke commission report soon.
Nomadic tribes are tribes like the Banjaras, who move from place to place in search of a livelihood. Denotified tribes include those like the Pardhis, which were traditionally classified as “criminal tribes”, a tag the tribes want removed.
Nomadic and denotified tribes are found in Marathwada, Vidarbha and western Maharashtra.