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BJP, Cong in race to reach out to tribals in MP ahead of 2023 polls

By Praveen Dwivedi
Bhopal, Nov 15 (IANS) On the occasion of freedom fighter Birsa Munda's birth anniversary on Monday, both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh tried to present itself as more sympathetic towards the tribals.

To reach out to them, in view of the next Assembly polls due in 2023, both the parties organised events at different places to celebrate the occasion. While the Shivraj Singh Chouhan led BJP government organised a mega event -- 'Janjatiya Gaurav Divas' at Bhopal's largest ground Jamburi Maidan -- the Congress celebrated the occasion in Jabalpur, around 300 kms from the state capital.

In Bhopal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced several tribal centric schemes. Two Congress leaders and former Chief Ministers of the state -- Digvijaya Singh (1993 to 2003) and Kamal Nath (December 2018- March 2020) -- accused the BJP of using the occasion for political gains.

Addressing a gathering of over two lakh people (as estimated by the MP government) at a colourful event in Bhopal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held the Congress responsible for not giving deserving space for the heroic stories of sacrifices by the tribals and their contribution in developing India.

Naming a dozen tribal heroes, Modi congratulated the gathering announcing that Birsa Munda's birth anniversary will be celebrated like that of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters.

"Tribal cultures are our heritage. Tribals are skilled in the arts but they were not given a marketplace in the last 70 years. Their poor condition was used for just political gains. But, this have started changing since the last 7 years. I have made some changes in policies of forest and mining which create job opportunities for tribals at their places. Handmade crafts of tribals are given space for business and their arts are in global markets through online."

He said that dozens of schemes introduced by the Chouhan-led BJP government will bring more changes in the lives of tribals in Madhya Pradesh. "I am happy to know that tribals deprived of public services will be getting foodgrains at their doorstep. The Centre has also made some policies which are going to bring changes in tribals' lives," Modi added.

Chouhan has announced distributing foodgrains in tribal areas in several districts at their doorstep. "Our government is committed to provide ample opportunity for tribal children to grow up. All vacant posts for tribals will be filled in all departments soon," Chouhan said while addressing the gathering.

In Jabalpur, Kamal Nath said the BJP has never been for the poor and the tribals. "Shivraj Singh announces a new scheme every day, but they remain on paper only. Why did he (Shivraj Singh) suddenly think of organising the Janjatiya Gaurav Divas after 18 years? Because they know the people of Madhya Pradesh are fed up with the BJP government," Nath added.

The BJP government has spent around (as per official announcement) Rs 23 crore, including Rs 12 crore for transportation of tribals from different parts of the state.

The BJP also changed the name of Habibganj Railway Station after tribal queen Rani Kamlapati.

The celebrations in the name of tribal freedom fighters was not limited to just Bhopal and Jabalpur as local leaders of both the parties participated in programmes held in several tribal areas.

Tribals celebrate the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda with joy, beating drums and dancing in their traditional attire.

As per the National Crime Record Bureau data, Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes at 2,401. In 2019, this figure was 1,922, while in 2018 it was 1,868.

In the last two years, the state reported a 28 per cent increase in atrocities against tribals.