Congress hopes unemployment, silver price will help it win in MP’s Malwa region - Hindustan Times
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Congress hopes unemployment, silver price will help it win in MP’s Malwa region

May 12, 2024 03:24 PM IST

The election in the three tribal seats in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region is being watched as this was the region where Congress performed much better than rest of the state in 2023 assembly polls

In scorching summer heat, Savita Ramesh Singhadiya, 36, is at a village hand pump to fetch water as Jal Nal Scheme is yet to reach Gadwadiya village, 4 km from district headquarter. But, the biggest concern for this illiterate mother of three is high prices of silver.

Increase in silver prices has become a poll issue among the tribals in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region. (Shruti Tomar/HT Photo)
Increase in silver prices has become a poll issue among the tribals in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region. (Shruti Tomar/HT Photo)

“Phooljadi (term used for the Bharatiya Janata Party) has increased price of silver to 80,000 per kg. How will I solemnise marriage of my three children,” she said, echoing concern of many women in the tribal Lok Sabha seats of Madhya Pradesh’s Ratlam, Dhar and Khargone, where more than 50% population is of tribals.

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About 100 km south, Shivani Rathore (Bhil), 29, a resident of Himmatgarh village in Dhar, and Rama Bheel, 41, of Bhavra town in Alirajpur, expressed a similar concern. “Price of silver, which was less than 50,000 a few years ago, has now reached close to 80,000. We migrate to Gujarat to earn 400- 600 per day as labourers and silver, which is our basic ornament, has gone beyond our reach,” said Rama Bhil, while going to his home town in Jhabua by a bus.

A jeweler in Jhabua, Nitin Jain, said, “Increase of silver prices is an issue among tribals as they purchased it in kilograms. In marriages, purchasing jewelry is not their choice but a decision of panchayat. If panchayat decides a groom family has to give 10 kg silver, nobody can’t say no. Now, the tribals are asking for credit to purchase it.”

In these three tribal constituencies, the national narrative over reservation to OBCs and Muslims, Ram Temple in Ayodhya and India’s global recognition are not much of an issue. Apart from silver, people talk about poor drinking water supply, lack of local employments and huge migration for work.

The election in the three tribal seats is being watched as this was the region where Congress performed much better than rest of Madhya Pradesh in December 2023 assembly polls. Of the 24 assembly seats in all three Lok Sabha constituencies, Congress won 13, BJP 10 and one went to the Bharatiya Adivasi Party (BAP).

In Ratlam Lok Sabha seat, BJP won four seats, Congress three and one went to BAP. In Dhar, five seats were won by Congress and three seats by BJP. In Khargone, BJP won only three seats out of eight seats. However, in 2019 and 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won all three parliamentary seats.

Ratlam is the most watched tribal seat in the Malwa region as minister of state in MP government Nagar Singh Chouhan’s wife Anita Nagar Singh Chouhan is contesting against five-time member of Parliament and Congress leader, Kantilal Bhuria.

In Ratlam, tribal population is about 51% and for the past two Lok Sabha elections, NOTA stood third with more than 30,000 votes. Bharatiya Adivasi Party, which won one seat in December 2023 assembly election from Sailana in Ratlam, has nominated Balu Singh. However, BAP MLA Kamleshwar Dodiyar alleged that he is contesting to help the BJP.

The Congress election in Ratlam has been controversial with Bhuria promising 1 lakh each to every woman, and saying those with two wives will get 2 lakh. Besides, Congress MLA Veer Singh Bhuria alleged that Anita Nagar Singh Chouhan belongs to a tribe of dacoits. More than issues, Bhuria has made this election personal. The BJP had termed these comments as Congress mindset against tribals.

More than that, Bhuria is contesting the election on an emotional pitch saying it would be his last Lok Sabha poll. “He is seeking votes on his personal connect with people. Not much for party or Congress policies,” said a local. Anita Chouhan is seeking votes for development.

In Khargone, BJP sitting MP Gajendra Singh Patel is contesting against Porlal Kharte of Congress, a retired state tax officer. Khargone has 1.8 million voters and out of them 52.7% are from ST community. In urban areas, Patel campaign revolves around communal tension in the region in April 2022 and populist scheme of BJP. Kharte is focusing on ‘Jal Jungle Jameen’ and ensuring constitutional rights of tribals as declaring the region under Constitution’s Fifth Schedule that provides for special governance for tribal areas.

In Dhar, the BJP replaced incumbent MP Chattar Singh Darbar with former MP Savitri Thakur. Congress has fielded youth leader Radheshyam Muvel. Thakur is a known face in Dhar and Muvel is contesting for the first time on a seat which has 51.2% tribal. Like Khargone, Congress and BJP are raising similar issues but in urban areas Archeological Survey of India’s survey of Bhojshala is being raised by the BJP workers.

However, a 55-year-old Ter Singh Bhil of Khanan village in Dhar district could be seen asking a woman BJP worker Pushpa Jangde whether Bhojshala will give employment to her four sons, who migrate to Gujarat and other cities for work. “I don’t understand anything. Just wanted to ask ‘Panjhadi (term used for Congress) and Phooljhadi will be able to give jobs to me and my son,” Bhil said. Jangde agreed and said Modi will find a solution to unemployment in his third term.

Dhar Congress candidate Radheshyam Muvel said, “There are many industrial areas in Dhar, but employment is being given to outsiders. Tribals are facing joblessness due to the poor policy of the BJP. Our apprenticeship scheme will train the tribals and others and will provide them jobs.”

Ratlam’s Congress candidate Kantilal Bhuria said, “The increase in rate of silver is one of the examples of anti-tribal policy of the BJP. In the past 20 years, BJP-led state government and in the past 10-years, BJP-led central government hardly put any efforts in Jhabua and Alirajpur to stop migration and provide them employment here in MP. BJP is trying to divert the issues, but nothing will happen.”

Replying to it, BJP candidate Savitri Thakur said, “PM Modi is focusing on self-reliant India and people are getting jobs. When it comes to the silver, the rates are increasing due to global market, but BJP government is controlling the rates.”

Supporting Thakur, BJP candidate from Ratlam Anita Nagar Singh Chauhan said, “Jhabua and Alirajpur have seen immense development. We have a road map to provide jobs to tribals and soon the problem of unemployment will be resolved under Atma Nirbhar Bharat.”

Savita’s husband Ramesh Singhadiya, who works as wage employee in a hotel, said the region was underdeveloped because of politicians. “My three children are studying and I am concerned about their future. If they don’t get government jobs, all of us will have to go to Gujarat (250 km from his village) for work,” he said.

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