Raipur: The political battle for attaining power in Chhattisgarh is not going to be a cakewalk for the ruling Congress and the main-opposition BJP this time as Sarva Adivasi Samaj (SAS) will play a major role in deciding the equations for the upcoming elections.
The outfit has decided to field candidates in the tribal-dominated Bastar and Surguja regions.
Moreover, to register its active participation in the politics of Chhattisgarh, SAS has completed its last-minute preparations for floating a political party and deciding a symbol for the party.
“Considering the experience of the Bhanupratappur bye-election and to live up to the dream of late tribal leader Sohan Potai, we have decided to contest this election by launching a political party. Almost all the preparations in this regard have been completed and deliberation is ongoing for the selection of a symbol,” said executive state president of SAS B S Rawte.
Akbar Ram Korram, the candidate fielded by SAS, bagged more than 23,000 votes and stood in third place in Bhanupratappur bye-elections. Bastar division has 12 constituencies (of which 11 are kept reserved for tribals) and these seats play a crucial role in the politics of Chhattisgarh.
“During the Bhanupratappur by-election, we have faced problems while carrying out publicity campaigns due to the unavailability of a symbol,” he added.
SAS will field the candidates in the seats of tribal-dominated Bastar as well as the Surguja region, said Rawte.
Criticizing both Congress and BJP for the existing problems in Bastar and the condition of the people, Rawte said that SAS will play a significant role in the coming elections.
“SAS had worked extensively by focusing on the problems, which unfolded during the tenure of BJP, and extended its support to Congress, which assured of resolving them. Instead of being solved during the Congress rule, problems flared up and there were report of incidents like Sarkeguda, Edesmetta and others incidents not published. They (Congress) had promised to release the 5,000 tribal people from jail but no action was taken in this direction,” he said.
The issue of reservation and others has irked the tribal population and Congress will face the heat of this during the coming elections, pointed Rawte.
Speaking about the selection of candidates, Rawte said, “We have identified a few candidates from community activities at the grass-root level. Airdropped candidates will be avoided. The focus of SAS will be on 30-32 seats in Bastar and Surguja divisions.”
Detailing the status of tribal-leader Sohan Potai and the vacuum created after his death, Rawte said the passing away of Sohan Potai is an irreparable loss for the community.
“He was a courageous leader and the way freedom fighters fight for the independence of the country, Potai sacrificed everything to protect the interest of tribal people,” Rawte said.
Recalling an instance associated with Potai, Rawte said even at the time when he was ill and unable to speak, the leader used to chair meetings to discuss the strategies for the Bhanupratappur bye-election and give instructions by writing on paper.
On being asked about the possibilities for an alliance with any party, Rawte said, “We are exploring the prospect and have talked with like-minded parties and are preparing to develop a strong third front by entering into an alliance with small parties.”
“The organisation will not go with any big party. We have a clear mindset regarding seat sharing. Our focus will be on tribal seats while extending support to others in general seats. The tribal population can impact 40 seats,” he added.
The leader also claimed that the tribal population is not happy with the ruling Congress.
Speaking about the struggle going on between the tribal population and those who changed their religious faith and to which extent this could impact the coming elections, the tribal leader alleged that this issue is being flared up by BJP. Their ultimate aim is to create religious controversy and take advantage of it but the common people are now well aware of their intention.
“On one side BJP advocates delisting those who changed their religious faith and on the other, the saffron party gives tickets to people following Christianity in Meghalaya and Nagaland. BJP state president claimed to eat beef while RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat participated in the Christmas feast in Meghalaya,” Rawte said attacking the BJP.
People of a community opt to contest the election when they got disappointed with the government, said joint media incharge of the BJP unit in Chhattisgarh Anurag Agrawal.
In the 15 years of rule of BJP, every community was happy and all the areas were witnessing development, he added.
Even the Sarva Adivasi Samaj was happy with the work of the BJP and to some extent, they are disappointed with the incumbent government, said Agrawal.
“I believe if Sarva Adivasi Samaj will contest the election then they will do so along with BJP,” he said.
Chief of Congress media cell in the state Sushil Anand Shukla said the entire tribal community is with Congress but a few people have their personal interest.
After coming to power, the Congress government worked to protect the rights of the tribal community and for their education as well as financial development, said Shukla.