Though more than one lakh tribals from Jhabua/Alirajpur region migrate to Gujarat and other parts of the country for work every year, only a handful of them are likely to return to cast their votes when the ST-reserved Ratlam-Jhabua parliamentary constituency goes to the polls on Saturday.
In fact, both the Congress and the BJP – the two main rival parties – are not counting their presence either on the voting day.
“Nope. Migrant tribals are not part of our electoral arithmetic,” a BJP leader from Jhabua, who is a businessman, said requesting anonymity.
Former RSS pracharak Mahesh Sharma, who has been working among tribals through NGO Shivganga Abhiyan for past 18 years, said, “About 1.5 lakh tribals migrate for work after Diwali and return to their native place around Holi. To say that even 25,000 will return to cast their vote even in main elections is a myth.”
According to Sharma, tribals return to vote during panchayat elections, especially when their relatives or acquaintances contest panchayat polls.
“Even those who reach here will come for other works. In the process, they will cast votes. They will not come specifically for voting,” said Prem Singh Dodiyar of Kasarbadi village, located 20 kilometres from Petlawad.
“This is because they will have to spend Rs 1,000 on travel which is expensive for one day’s work,” he added.
About 150 Kasarbadi villagers have gone to Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana as labourers this year.
“My uncle and aunt who went to Gujarat will not return for voting,” said 29-year-old Bamnia resident Dhan Singh, who works as a construction worker. “In any case, it doesn’t matter which government is in power; you have to be on your own during bad times.”
The tribal-dominated Ratlam-Jhabua constituency covers the entire Alirajpur and Jhabua districts and a part of Ratlam district. About 87% of the population in Jhabua district is tribal, while in Alirajpur district it’s as high as 97%.
CM ends poll campaign on promising note
Meanwhile, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ended the by-poll campaign in Ratlam-Jhabua parliamentary and Dewas assembly seats on Thursday evening by announcing a monetary relief for weather-hit farmers and giving a ‘Make in Dewas’ call.
The chief minister said that compensation of Rs 65 crore would be distributed to the farmers whose crops were damaged by hail storms, deficit or excess rain in the district.
Addressing the last election rally in Kundanpur, Chouhan said that farmers would get 10% subsidy on bank loans and also promised to set up high schools and higher secondary schools in the district. He said he would call a teachers’ panchayat to redress their grievances to ensure they imparted quality education.
In Dewas, Chouhan gave a ‘Make in Dewas’ call. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promoted ‘Make in India’ campaign around the world while he himself had been talking about ‘Make in MP’.