Lok Sabha elections 2019: Tribals, Muslims, Marathas to decide BJP’s fate in Nandurbar and Dhule
The party’s promise to include the Dhangar (shepherd) community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category, switching of its scholarship schemes to a direct-benefit transfer (DBT) portal and a delay in changing the panchayats (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in the state and centre has left tribals in Nandurbar unhappy.
This is likely to dent the prospects of the party candidate in Nandurbar, where 72% of the population is tribal.
Although the adjoining Dhule constituency has no dominance of tribal voters, who are less than 10%, Maratha voters are upset with the BJP as their community members were booked under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act two years ago and there is unrest among Muslims over the party’s candidature for 2008 Malegaon blast case accused Pragya Singh Thakur. The wrath of the tribals, Maratha and Muslim communities in these two constituencies has put BJP on a sticky wicket.
The BJP’s sitting MP Heena Gavit is pitted against Congress’s six-term MLA KC Padvi in Nandurbar. Union minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre is BJP’s candidate against Congress MLA Kunal Patil in Dhule.
Gavit’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election assumed significance as she was the youngest woman MP then, at the age of 26 and had defeated Congress’s nine-time MP Manikrao Gavit, who was 79 then.
Her performance in the Lok Sabha and the constituency has been significant as she has distributed more 1.50 lakh gas connections under the Centre’s Ujwala scheme and electricity connections to as many households. However, the government decisions related to reservation has created resentment among the tribal voters.
“The state government has promised reservation to Dhangars in the ST category. This has created a flutter among tribals as they feel the move will eat into their rights. This may cost the BJP candidate in Nandurbar,” said Pratibha Shinde, a social activist in Nandurbar.
Sensing unrest against the party, PM Narendra Modi, in a speech on Monday, assured them that the reservation quota won’t be touched. “It is a misconception that BJP is against tribals. We have been clarifying it to tribal voters. We have brought many development schemes directly to the doorsteps of tribals,”said BJP MLA and party candidate Heena’s father Vijaykumar Gavit. Gavit had joined the BJP days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 by quitting the NCP.
Meanwhile, the Nandurbar unit of BJP has developed cracks as party senior leader Suhas Natawadkar defected from party and filed his nomination as an independent.
The party’s Shahad MLA Udesinh Padvi, does not get along with Gavit and has reportedly not been co-operating with the party candidate. State minister and guardian leader of Nandurbar, Jaykumar Rawal, too has reportedly kept himself away from the party’s campaigning as he fears that Gavit’s rise may pose a threat to his growth.
On the other hand, Congress’s organisational structure is not in good shape after party MLC Chandrakant Raghuwanshi fell ill. “He has come back on Wednesday from Chennai, where he was taking treatment. His presence will boost the morale of party workers as he is the ‘poll manager’ of the party,” a Congress leader said.
In Dhule, the discontent among Muslims over the BJP’s move of giving candidature to Pragya Singh Thakur is likely to go against the party candidate. BJP has fielded its sitting MP and union minister for state Subhash Bhamre against Congress’s young MLA Kunal Patil, whose father Rohidas Patil was a state minister for more than two decades and grandfather Chudaman Patil a former MP. Dhule has 6 lakh Muslim voters and 8 lakh Maratha voters besides a sizable population of Dalits and OBCs.
In 2014, young Muslims had voted for BJP, but this time unrest has so intensified that the community is expected to go with the Congress.
A section of Marathas are also unhappy with the BJP as MP Heena Gavit got some community workers booked under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for protesting against her. Besides this, BJP MLA Anil Gote’s rebellion just ahead of the election and another party leader Adwait Hire supporting Congress candidate may prove to work against Bhamre.
“The Shiv Sena leaders have openly declared they will not work for Bhamre as they are unhappy with him over their clashes that took place during the municipal elections last year,” said a BJP leader.
“I fought the LS elections from Dhule last time and got sizable votes despite being an ‘outsider’. We are getting support from all communities and are sure about the victory of our candidate. More importantly, Congress and NCP are working together wholeheartedly this time,” said Amrish Patel, Congress leader. Kunal Patil said the work done by him as an MLA and by his family all these years will help him