AAP’s entry helps BJP seal seats in tribal belts
Broadly in south Gujarat, which has a considerable tribal presence, the BJP enhanced its dominance improving its tally from 25 of the 35 seats in the region in 2017, to 33 seats
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has sprung a major surprise in the tribal belt of Gujarat, which was traditionally considered a Congress bastion, winning 23 of the 27 reserved seats on the back of a focused developmental drive in the backward area, the choice of the right candidates, and the Aam Aadmi Party playing spoiler for the Congress. Broadly in south Gujarat, which has a considerable tribal presence, the BJP enhanced its dominance improving its tally from 25 of the 35 seats in the region in 2017, to 33 seats.
In the ST reserved seats in 2017, the Congress had won 15, helping the party to take its tally to 77 seats, its best performance in the last two decades, and the BJP 8. Two seats were won by the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) of Chhotu Vasava, and two were won by independent candidates.
This time, the Congress won three, and the BTP 0.
According to the 2011 census, the tribal population in Gujarat was almost 9 million, around 15 % of the state’s total population, and largely spread across 14 eastern districts of the State and concentrated in 48 administrative units of tehsils.
Political experts said one reason for the BJP’s success in the tribal belt was improved focus on developmental work, and getting influential Congress leaders into the fold. The BJP focused on winning the local body polls in the tribal areas in 2021. This time, the BJP won almost all the taluka and district panchayats in districts dominated by tribals, from Ambaji to Umbergaon in the eastern tribal belt. For these elections, the party organised a special ‘Gaurav Yatra’ focused on tribal voters. Modi too campaigned intensely in tribal areas. On November 27, in Bharuch, he accused the Congress of having no respect for tribals, and raised the opposition to Droupadi Murmu’s elevation as President. “We had asked the Congress to accept her candidature, but they opposed it. We put all our might and she won the election,” Modi had said.
The entry of Aam Aadmi Party also helped the BJP. HT’s data shows that AAP played spoiler in 11 seats in this belt, which means its tally was higher than the difference between the winner and the runner-up. Of the 11, the Congress was at the receiving end in 9 and the BJP in 2. Political analyst Ghanshyam Shah said: “The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) impacted the Congress’ vote and benefited the BJP. In many tribal seats, AAP candidates ate into the votes of the Congress and benefited the BJP. Also, in the past few years, prominent local tribal Congress leaders have joined the BJP”.
Political analyst Naresh Varia said, “The BJP seemed to change its strategy in the tribal belt. In Vyara for instance, it picked a Christian candidate who won. The party also cashed on Draupadi Murmu as the first tribal woman President of India.”
Overall in south Gujarat, the Congress was reduced to a solitary seat from its 2017 tally of eight, while the AAP snatched one seat from the BTP. In Surat, the BJP swept all 16 assembly segments, four of which are rural, one higher than its tally of 15 in 2017. The Congress was the incumbent in Mandvi, a seat reserved for the scheduled tribes, which it had won for the last three terms in a row. However, 2022 saw the non-BJP votes split down the middle between the sitting MLA Anand Chaudhuri who won 56074 and Saynaben Gamit of the AAP who won 48,301 votes, enabling the BJP’s Kunvar Halpati to win with 74202 votes.
The 12 seats in Surat city were a disappointment for the Aam Aadmi Party which fielded many of its heavyweights and former Patidar leaders in Gujarat AAP Chief Gopal Italia, Alpesh Katheriya, Dharmik Malaviya, Manoj Sorathiya, Ram Dhaduk, with the BJP sweeping the city.
Kirit Trivedi, a political analyst associated with the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University said the AAP successfully relegated the Congress to third place in south Gujarat and that Patel-dominated seats were bereft of Patidar anger.
“The BJP has kept a tight grip over the urban areas for two decades now. Some of the urban seats like Majura, Surat West, Surat North, Choriyasi, Udhana have seen BJP leaders take wider margins compared to 2017.”