In a bid to unite the weaker sections of the society ahead of the Assembly elections in the state, rebel Janata Dal (United) MLA Chhotubhai Vasava will organise a convention of Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities in Bharuch district next week. Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Jhagadia, Vasava, an influential tribal leader, said that he has invited prominent Dalit leader and former MP Prakash Ambedkar, former Dalit MLA Siddharth Parmar, leading Ahmedabad-based Dalit activist Valjibhai Patel and former BAMCEF president Bahecharbhai Rathod to the convention. While Prakash Ambedkar will be the chief guest at the event, Valjibhai Patel will inaugurate the convention.
Through the convention, Vasava wants to strengthen his political grip in the district that has five Assembly constituencies. Vasava has won in all the six assembly elections since 1990 from Jhagadia seat, a predominantly tribal pocket. He is now eyeing to field candidates from all the five Assembly seats in Bharuch district and also in the neighouring tribal-dominated Narmada district in alliance with the Congress.
The rebel JD(U) MLA has moved quite closer to the Congress after he voted for Congress nominee Ahmed Patel in the recent Rajya Sabha election, despite his party issuing whip in favour of the BJP. It was Vasava’s vote that resulted in victory of Ahmed Patel.
In a note circulated to the invitees, Vasava has said that incidents of violence against Dalits and minorities by “hooligans” and “thugs’’ have increased in recent years on the pretext of cow protection. “While Dalits skinning dead cows in Una were subjected to inhuman excesses by hooligans in presence of police, ruffians and hoodlums at Kosora village of Anand district beat up Dalit mother-son duo after removing their clothes and circulated the video as they were found skinning a dead cow,” he wrote.
While lakhs of rupees, received as grants for keeping and feeding cows, are embezzled by unscrupulous people every year resulting in the death of cows due to starvation, Dalits and minorities are assaulted in the name of cow protection,” he said. He also referred to the 24-year-old Dalit medical student, Dhaval Parmar, who committed suicide allegedly due to harassment and discrimination on caste grounds in July this year.
Vasava accused the BJP government in the state for not adhering to the provision of reservation in educational institutions and government jobs. He said that forest lands were not alloted to the tribals despite the legislation of Forest Rights Act by the central government, and Dalits were not being given possession of the land that was allotted to them long back in different parts of the state. “We will raise these issues at the convention and will then prepare our election agenda on the basis of which we will go to the people in the elections’’, said Vasava.
Confirming that he has received invitation to attend the convention, Dalit activist Valjibhai Patel said, “I am a social activist, not a politician. But the issues Chhotubhai has raised, are quite relevant and I support it.”