Lok Sabha Elections 2019: BTP’S rise worry for Congress, BJP in Rajasthan’s tribal belt
In Rajasthan politics, it is said that the party that wins Mewar, wins Rajasthan. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the region, dominated by tribal population, could see an interesting political battle with traditional rivals Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress being challenged by the newly-formed Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP).
The BTP emerged as a dark horse just two months before the assembly elections in December 2018. It contested 11 assembly seats and won two. The party’s growing support among tribals has the two major parties worried about a shift in their vote base.
The Marwar region overlaps Udaipur division, which comprises four parliamentary constituencies — Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Banswara-Dungarpur. There are around 13 lakh tribals in the division, which has five districts — Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Banswara and Dungarpur.
BTP state president Velaram Ghoghra says the party will contest three seats – Udaipur, Banswara-Dungarpur and Chittorgarh. “We are hopeful of winning the Banswara-Dungarpur seat,” says Ghoghra.
Former Udaipur MP and senior BJP leader Kiran Maheshwari admits that BTP poses a challenge, but the Lok Sabha is a different ball game. “They won in the assembly election as they had support of the tribals. BJP had several rebel candidates who harmed the party’s chances in the region. But they have no base in Rajasthan or at the centre and so it is difficult for them to see larger success in the Lok Sabha polls,” she says.
Traditionally, the tribal vote has swung between the Congress and the BJP. But experts say “BTP cannot be written off” in this Lok Sabha election. “It (BTP) has made things difficult for the parties,” says Prof Sanjay Lodha, head of the political science department at the Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur. “The party has been active in the tribal area after assembly elections. BJP and Congress are finding it difficult to negotiate with people there,” he adds.
In the 2009 general election, Congress held all four seats in Udaipur division and won 20 of the 25 parliamentary seats in Rajasthan. The results reversed in 2014 with the BJP winning all four seats in the division under the impact of a strong Modi wave. The party won all 25 parliamentary seats in the elections.
In the 2018 assembly elections, of the 26 assembly seats in the division, BJP won 15, Congress won nine and BTP got two.
Political commentator Narayan Bareth feels the BTP will not be as effective in the Lok Sabha polls as it was in the assembly. “I don’t think they will be able to win any seat. A parliamentary constituency has a much larger area as compared to an assembly constituency and requires more manpower and resources,” he says.
Congress leader from Banswara Rajesh Katara admits that the BTP had cut into the Congress votes. “In the assembly elections, Congress came at third spot on seats where BTP won,” he says. However, he adds, the parliament election is different from the assembly.
BJP leader Hakru Mahida from Banswara says, “The Lok Sabha election is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s elections and people want to vote for Modi.” He says Modi is seen as a strong leader whereas the opposition lacks a credible face. “Modi is popular in the region as Banswara and Dungarpur districts border Gujarat,” he says.