Five months after the Gujarat High Court had passed strictures on the state government to effect the Forest Rights Act 2006,Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday presided over a function,organised to allocate land to tribals under this Central act at Vansda in Navsari,not only to woo voters in this Congress stronghold,but also to send a strong appeal to neighbouring Madhya Pradesh that is soon to go to Assembly polls.
Given the contiguous central Indian tribal belt that stretches from Gujarat into MP and farther,Vansda was chosen particularly because of it being a predominantly forest area and of its strategic location.
On Monday some 15,000 tribal farmers were allocated land on Monday,and for Modi,the function served a dual purpose as a platform for him to reach out to the marginalised,that too in pockets where the BJP is weak,and helped influence the BJP campaign in the neighbouring MP,where the border is blurred culturally,socially and economically.
In May,the HC,responding to an PIL filed by a group of NGOs,critisising the government,had asked it to implement the Act and thereafter the rules framed under this Act by the Centre.
While running for prime minister,Modi has to first improve his performance in Gujarat,where the BJPs performance of winning 15 of total 26 LS seats in 2009 was far from impressive.
The tribal belt comprising Valsad,Navsari,Dang,Sabarkantha,Panchmahal and Dahod,popularly called the Poorvi patti is the biggest challenge for the BJP,when it is targeting all 26 seats to give a much needed push to Modi in his march toward Delhi. Districts like Sabarkantha,Valsad and Dahod,where the BJP has been struggling to make a dent,will be his biggest hurdle.
The Forest Rights Act,2006,so far has not found much of the beneficiaries. If Mondays function was any indication,the scene is likely to change.
According to a reply by the Tribal Affairs Ministry in the Lok Sabha in August,of the 1,91,592 claims for titles received by Gujarat till July 31,the state had distributed only 42,752,rejecting 18,399,a rate of 31.91 per cent. Besides,the same report also revealed that Gujarat ranked second from the bottom of the list of states in disposal of claims related to the same act. Gujarat with 32 per cent disposal rate ranks only above Uttarakhand which has less than 1 per cent disposal rate.
As the BJPs poll preparations in Gujarat goes in full swing,its leaders maintained that tribal belt is the weak link. We need to do very hard work in tribal belt to take the tall to 26, said a senior most leader from the BJP.