Sliding victory margin might worry Tribal Affairs minister

PTI | ByParikshit Joshi (Press Trust of India), Mandla (mp)
May 01, 2004 01:54 PM IST

Sliding victory margin might worry Tribal Affairs minister

For Faggan Singh Kulaste, the Minister of State for Tribal Affairs in the BJP-led NDA at the Centre, the dwindling victory margin in the last three elections and spectacular performance of the Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP) in the assembly elections held four months ago might give sleepless nights.

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Though Kulaste performed a hat-trick by winning three elections in a row since 1996, his victory margin has slid down in the successive polls in this predominantly tribal reserved seat of Mandla in Mahakoshal region of the second largest state in the country.

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Kulaste, who had won in the 1996 for the first time defeating the Congress nominee Mohanlal, who represented this constituency three times in a row, with a margin of over 45,000 votes, could secure a lead of 6,572 votes over his nearest rival Devendra Tekam of the Congress in the last elections.

The emergence of GGP in the Mahakoshal region in the assembly elections and presence of the party president Hirasingh Markam has the possibility of tilting the electoral scales in this seat, say political observers.

Congress has fielded little known Savitri Dhumketi, who is the chairperson of the Mandla Zilla Panchayat. Though altogether nine nominees are in the fray, the fight would be a triangular between Kulaste, Dhumketi and Markam. Bahujan Samaj Party, which intends to make inroads in the region, has fielded Indra Singh Uike.

Gonds and Baigas are the most significant tribes in Mandla, which is encircled by river Narmada on three sides.

But BJP's strategy to split the adivasi votes with the Congress, partly as a result of the work of the Sangh Parivar Organisations in the region and partly as the result of the GGP's entry into the electoral arena might see Kulaste sail through, observers here feel.

With assembly elections held barely four months ago, both Congress and the BJP are finding it difficult to enthuse their party workers.

Also it is wedding season here and the scorching heat is making it impossible to campaign during daytime.

Though, there are no major issues, the infrastructural development carried out by Kulaste like providing roads, schools and other amenities in this region is the talking point. BJP also has an upper-hand in the region since it seven out of eight MLAs from this parliamentary constituency.

Playing down GGP's claim of wide support among adivasis, senior BJP leader and the state assembly Speaker Ishwardas Rohani told PTI that the saffron party's seven tribal MLAs have been elected from Mandla.

"Adivasis will not support GGP en bloc, We have done a considerable work in the region and will definitely get the backing of tribals", Rohani says.

In the neighbouring Balaghat Lok Sabha seat, BJP has brought in Gouri Shanker Bisen, who had romped home victorious from this seat in 1998.

The Balaghat district has the unique distinction of women voters outnumbering their male counterparts.

Senior Congress leader Nandkishore Sharma kept his seat for the party in the 1980 and 1984 elections.

Independent Kanker Munjare won the 1989 elections as an independent, pushing the Congress to the third position in this constituency, which is partly naxal-infested.

In 1991 and 1996, Vishweshwar Bhagat of Congress defeated Bisen. In 1998, Bisen, however, avenged his defeats.

Congress has fielded Pushpa Bisen from Balaghat on this occasion. Once again presence of GGP nominee Hirasen Uike can tilt the electoral scales in favour of the BJP, political observers here feel.

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