2018 Can re­served seats swing polls in Ra­jasthan?

Mint ST - - POLITICS - Trends in the last three elec­tions show that the party which wins more re­served seats man­ages to form the gov­ern­ment in Ra­jasthan. BJP Congress Oth­ers To­tal No of re­served con­stituen­cies won in as­sem­bly polls in Ra­jasthan [email protected] UDAIPUR

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’S) at­tempt to ex­pand its so­cial base and the Congress’ bid to re­gain in­flu­ence over the Sched­uled Castes (SC) and the Sched­uled Tribes (ST) have set the stage for an in­ter­est­ing elec­toral con­test in Ra­jasthan, where there are 59 re­served seats in the 200-mem­ber as­sem­bly.

The re­sults of the last three as­sem­bly elec­tions in­di­cate that the party that wins more re­served seats man­ages to form the gov­ern­ment in Jaipur. In 2008, Ashok Gehlot came to power in Ra­jasthan with the help of 34 re­served seats. In 2013, when the BJP won the state elec­tions, it had won 50 re­served seats.

How­ever, it may not be as easy for ei­ther the BJP or the Congress this time. Up­per caste men had burned down the houses of Dalit lead­ers, BJP mem­ber of leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly (MLA) Ra­jku­mari Jaatav and former Congress MLA Bharosi Lal Jaatav, dur­ing a protest in Ka­rauli district sup­port­ing the di­lu­tion of the SC/ST (Preven­tion of Atroc­i­ties Act).

“Gov­ern­ments don’t do enough to reach out to Dal­its. They only come to our con­stituen­cies when it is time to vote. There is a gen­eral anger among the peo­ple as atroc­i­ties have in­creased and there is no sup­port from the gov­ern­ment. Pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments made some at­tempts, but this time there has been no ef­fort. We would like a change,” said Kanha Ram, 26, a farm labourer from Sikar district’s Dhod con­stituency.

The chal­lenge for the BJP is big­ger con­sid­er­ing the vi­o­lence against the Dalit com­mu­nity in an elec­tion year. In July, a 22-year-old man was beaten to death in Barmer be­cause of his al­leged af­fair with a girl from a dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity.

The BJP had also faced the ire of Dal­its dur­ing the Bharat Bandh in April when wide­spread protests led to vi­o­lent clashes and six peo­ple were killed.

Even­tu­ally, the Union gov­ern­ment had to bring in a leg­is­la­tion to negate a court or­der that had let to the clashes, months ahead of the state polls, in Au­gust.

The po­lit­i­cal and so­cial in­flu­ence of Dal­its and trib­als is ev­i­dent as the two com­mu­ni­ties to­gether ac­count for more than 31% of Ra­jasthan’s pop­u­la­tion and play a de­ci­sive role in state elec­tions. Dal­its and trib­als ac­count for 17.8% and 13.5% of the state’s 68.6 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion, re­spec­tively, ac­cord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus.

In­ter­est­ingly, both com­mu­ni­ties are aware of their po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and want the BJP and the Congress to en­sure their prob­lems are ad­dressed.

“Our el­ders used to say that in Ra­jasthan, the Dalit and tribal re­served seats are the first in­di­ca­tors of anti-in­cum­bency.

BAT­TLE­GROUND 2018 Gen­er­ally speak­ing, there is a mood for change among the peo­ple, es­pe­cially among tribal vot­ers. How­ever, some schemes of the gov­ern­ment are do­ing well here. The in­clu­sion of our area in the Fifth Sched­ule (of the Con­sti­tu­tion) by the Union gov­ern­ment is also a key fac­tor,” said Anil Ku­mar Katara, 43, a con­trac­tor from Dungarpur, an ST con­stituency.

The cen­tre had ap­proved the in­clu­sion of three dis­tricts in Ra­jasthan un­der the Fifth Sched­ule, which pro­tects rights of trib­als. The ar­eas in­clude three dis­tricts of Ban­swara, Dungarpur, and Prat­ap­garh, among oth­ers.

Both the Congress and the BJP have tried to reach out to the SC and ST pop­u­la­tion and have made a se­ries of announcements in their man­i­festoes, in­clud­ing tribal sub plans for rapid so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment of the com­mu­nity, strength­en­ing the For­est Rights Act, fill­ing up va­can­cies for re­served can­di­dates in gov­ern­ment jobs, and pro­vid­ing schol­ar­ships to SC and ST stu­dents.

“Re­served seats in Ra­jasthan have of­ten given a fil­lip to the win­ning party by in­creas­ing its tally. While tra­di­tion­ally the sup­port, es­pe­cially from tribal seats, went to Congress, the BJP too has emerged as a key con­tender, which is ev­i­dent from the 2013 re­sults,” said R.D. Gur­jar, former prin­ci­pal of the Univer­sity Ra­jasthan Col­lege, Jaipur.

“This time, how­ever, there is a lot of anger against the SC/ST rul­ing. While the gov­ern­ment did act later and up­turned the court’s or­der, there is still a lot of anger among Dal­its and trib­als and they feel that they have been be­trayed, and the BJP may bear the burnt of that,” Gur­jar said.

Pretika Khanna in Sikar con­trib­uted to this story.

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