What a tri­an­gu­lar fight can do in Cham­bal

With BSP in fray, Congress votes can split to ben­e­fit BJP

The Hindu - - TAKE FIVE - Vikas Pathak

A nar­row road leads to the con­gested Har­i­jan Basti in Pu­rana Joura, about 25 km from Morena in Mad­hya Pradesh, with houses clus­tered hap­haz­ardly on ei­ther side. The lo­cal­ity has a high con­cen­tra­tion of Jatavs, a Sched­uled Caste com­mu­nity known for leather work.

The res­i­dents, crit­i­cal of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan govern­ment, want change. But the Congress, their first choice, has a com­peti­tor here: the BSP, which also lays claim to sup­port of the Jatavs, the com­mu­nity of party chief Mayawati.

The Sched­uled Castes make up 21.4% of the pop­u­la­tion of Morena dis­trict, and three-fourths of it are Jatavs. Clearly, the Cham­bal divi­sion, com­pris­ing Morena, Bhind and Sheopur dis­tricts, is the re­gion where the BSP fac­tor will be tested later this month, apart from Rewa and Satna in Baghelk­hand, some 500 km to the south-east.

Bat­tle of per­cep­tion

The BJP seems to have lost the bat­tle of per­cep­tion among the Sched­uled Castes here. It, how­ever, counts on the BSP to split the Congress votes.

Will the BSP fac­tor be de­ci­sive, and would a BSP-Congress al­liance have helped?

In 2013, Sube­dar Singh of the BJP de­feated Ban­wari Lal of the Congress in the Joura seat by a mar­gin of nearly 2,500 votes. While the BJP and the Congress se­cured 42,105 and 39,534 votes, re­spec­tively, BSP can­di­date Mani­ram got 30,223.

Un­less most Jatavs vote for the Congress, the BJP may still have a strong chance, go­ing by prece­dent. But Shri­pad Jatav, a lo­cal res­i­dent, dis­agrees, of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

“If the BSP and the Congress had al­lied, each seat here would have ei­ther a BSP or Congress can­di­date. Mayawati be­ing a tough bar­gainer, she would have sought quite a few seats. But since many BSP can­di­dates are weaker than Congress can­di­dates, the non-Jatav vote would have pre­ferred the BJP to a weak BSP can­di­date,” he says.

The res­i­dents here fault the Union govern­ment for the re­cent “di­lu­tion” of the SC/ST Act.

Nepri, a Brah­min-ma­jor­ity vil­lage with a high con­cen­tra­tion of Jatavs, is a 30-minute drive from Pu­rana Joura. It is in Ke­laras tehsil of Morena dis­trict and part of the Sa­bal­garh Assem­bly con­stituency, which went to the BJP last time.

A group of Jatavs sit­ting around a small statue of B.R. Ambed­kar ex­press their de­sire for change. How­ever, here too, the BSP has fielded a can­di­date, com­pli­cat­ing what could have been a di­rect fight be­tween the Congress and the BJP.

But Vinod Jatav, a res­i­dent, in­sists that vot­ers would vote tac­ti­cally for the win­ning can­di­date be­tween the Congress and the BSP, rather than split­ting their votes to bring the BJP back.

“The BSP is also our party but we will vote tac­ti­cally to de­feat the BJP,” he says.

VIKAS PATHAK ■

For change: A Jatav lo­cal­ity in Pu­rana Joura.

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