Spoilsports of 2018 election

DB Post 18 August 2018


The emergence of a radical maverick organisation as a political force in western Madhya Pradesh has worried both the BJP and the Congress, the main contenders for the throne in the upcoming MP assembly election. Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), an organisation of tribal youths, has thrown its hat in the ring.

Jays has announced that its members will contest not only all the 47 Vidhan Sabha seats reserved for scheduled tribes but also fight from 30 other constituencies with sizeable number of Adivasi voters.

Jays has been active in the tribal areas, particularly western region, for some time now. The success of its recent rallies in small tribal towns and the outpouring of support from youth have caught the media’s imagination.

What was remarkable was the massive crowd and the spontaneous turnout at these rallies. That has made poll managers of the BJP and Congress sit up and take notice.

Abki Baar, Adivasi Sarkar

Every fifth voter in MP is a tribal. “Both the BJP and the Congress used us as a vote bank,” says Jays leader Hiralal Alawa, who has jumped into the fray with the slogan, Abki Baar, Adivasi Sarkar — a tribal government this time.

By its own reckoning, Jays does not hope to win more than 30 seats. How do they hope, then, to install an “Adivasi Sarkar” in the 230-member state assembly?

Alawa’s goal is focussed: “We will hold the balance of power and support the party which agrees to our term of appointing a tribal as chief minister.”

Before you laugh at such political naiveté, remember the lessons of electoral history. The Congress lost the 2003 assembly poll because the Gondwana Gantantra Party, another maverick organisation of Tribals. The GGP robbed the Congress of 4.71 per cent votes even as BSP walked away with eight per cent votes.

Never underestimate the power of smaller players in electoral arena. They cannot win, but they can play spoilsports.

A doctor quits job to serve people

Hiralal Alawa, 35, may be politically naïve, but no one doubts his sincerity. He was working as assistant professor of rheumatology at All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi.

He quit his secure government job a couple of years ago to shift to his home town, Kukshi, in Dhar district and started a medical clinic there because he “wanted to help the community”.

It must have been big sacrifice, given his modest background; his father is a school teacher and mother an Aanganwadi worker.

Alawa first came to limelight when Jays upset the apple carts of well-entrenched student organisations from the RSS and the Congress stables last year.

The Jays nominees captured 162 seats in college student unions in tribal-dominated Dhar, Jhabua, Alirajpur and Barwani districts in the first-ever election that it contested.

Most of his supporters are educated, young Tribals, capable of causing a ripple effect in communities they belong to.

Gondwana & BSP

Jays is not the only organisation that may prove a spoilsport in the forthcoming elections. In the last assembly election, BSP had polled more than six per cent votes and Gondwana Gantantra Party about one per cent.

The Congress is already trying to forge a pre-poll alliance with the BSP, the GGP and the Samjwadi Party. In 2013, the BJP and the Congress had secured between themselves about 80 per cent of total votes polled. The Congress is trying to get a slice of the remaining 20 per cent through pre-poll alliances.

A new chip off the spoilsport bloc can be Sapaks Samaj, the political offshoot of an anti-reservation organisation of government officials and employees.

In a surprise decision, the newly floated organisation has announced its intention to contest election. However, it is not known how much damage it can cause.

An IIT-ian as CM candidate

The Aam Admi Party is also flexing its muscles. It intends to contest all the 230 seats and it has already come out with several lists of its candidates.

It has even declared its chief ministerial candidate 49-year-old Alok Agarwal, an IIT-ian who earned his spurs as an activist in anti-Narmada dam movement for almost a quarter century. He had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Khandwa unsuccessfully, where he polled less than 17,000 votes.

The AAP may not have much strength in MP, but like most of the smaller parties it can play spoilsport in certain constituencies.

The threat is serious for political strategists. During the last assembly election, the Congress and the BJP lost 44 seats by a margin of less than 5,000 votes. In fact, they lost 14 seats each by a margin of less than 3,000 votes.

The smaller players can be crucial factors in such constituencies. Politics is the art of the possible, indeed.

My column, Powers That Be, in DB Post of 18 Aug 18

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