What a triangular fight can do in Chambal
With BSP in fray, Congress votes can split to benefit BJP
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.
For change: A Jatav locality in Purana Joura.