RSS-backed outfit’s demand to delist converts from ST quota creates unease within BJP MLAs | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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RSS-backed outfit’s demand to delist converts from ST quota creates unease within BJP MLAs

Dec 22, 2023 07:32 AM IST

JSM has held more than 20 rallies in the state’s tribal-dominated districts in the last one year raising this demand. The organisation has been demanding an amendment to article 341 of the constitution to delist converted tribals from the ST category

Mumbai: While the Janjati Suraksha Manch (JSM), backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has been holding rallies across the country, including in Maharashtra, demanding the delisting from Scheduled Tribes (ST) quota of those tribals who have converted, sitting BJP MLAs in the state who represent tribal-dominated constituencies have been iffy.

RSS-backed outfit’s demand to delist converts from ST quota creates unease within BJP MLAs
RSS-backed outfit’s demand to delist converts from ST quota creates unease within BJP MLAs

During recent JSM rallies at Nashik, Nandurbar, Nagpur and parts of Mumbai and Konkan, the sitting representatives of these areas chose to keep away.

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JSM has held more than 20 rallies in the state’s tribal-dominated districts in the last one year raising this demand. The organisation has been demanding an amendment to article 341 of the constitution to delist converted tribals from the ST category. It is their claim that tribals who have converted to either Christianity or Islam have deviated from tribal customs, traditions and culture, and yet continue to gain from the 7% tribal quota.

However, a tribal leader from the state BJP expressed apprehension about this demand stating that in 16 of Maharashtra’s districts with high tribal population, majority of the tribals were converts. “In some places,” he pointed out, “the number of converts is as high as 30 per cent.” He worried that BJP representatives in these areas would lose voter support as most tribals are against the demand raised by the JSM.

He said that when they raised their concerns with the party’s central and state leadership during their internal meetings they were told to not openly support the delisting drive. “Keep away from these rallies if you find them to be counterproductive, we were told.”

However, there are other leaders like Ashok Uike, former tribal minister and BJP MLA from Ralegaon in Yavatmal, who told HT that there was no cause to worry about a possible backlash. “I participated in the Nagpur delisting rally on November 21 with full fervour. The opposition to the delisting is only on social media. As far as the tribal youth and educated aspirants are concerned, the fact is that their share of the pie is being taken away by the converts,” he said. Though in Vidarbha, where his constituency is, the converted tribal population is only 1.5 per cent.

This move to polarise the tribal community comes on account of the fact that the tribal vote bank has traditionally been with the Congress. “This polarisation will also help consolidate the party’s ‘Hindu rashtra’ stand,”said another key BJP leader. He admitted that the tribal polarisation project may still take some time to fructify. “A huge chunk of the tribal population is against the delisting drive and during the JSM regional rallies there were counter rallies to oppose the demand,” he conceded.

Sharad Chavan, JSM social media chief, said they had the support of the RSS in this demand and while certain BJP MLAs or MPs may not have been on stage, there were several other politicians who supported them. Chavan claimed that of the 12 million tribals in Maharashtra about 5 lakh of them were converts. The unofficial number though could be higher, he said.

Santosh Janate, founder president of Adivasi Ekata Mitra Mandal, who participated in JSM’s Mumbai rally, said that if local MLAs or MPs stayed away for fear of losing votes of the converted tribals, there were sure to lose the votes of the rest of them.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Surendra P Gangan is Senior Assistant Editor with political bureau of Hindustan Times’ Mumbai Edition. He covers state politics and Maharashtra government’s administrative stories. Reports on the developments in finances, agriculture, social sectors among others.

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