Droupadi Murmu’s nomination as the first tribal Presidential candidate has put the Congress government in tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh in a spot. While it does not want to alienate tribal groups, it also cannot openly declare its support to a BJP nominee. Meanwhile, the state BJP is expected to put its full weight behind the decision.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s choice of fielding Murmu, who is a Santhal tribal woman from Odisha, was hailed by the state BJP, which has been highlighting that a tribal woman was chosen for the highest position in the country. In a statement to the press, Dharamlal Kaushik, the state’s BJP’s leader, congratulated the national leadership for picking an able tribal leader like Murmu.
On June 22, the state’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) leader Amit Jogi also extended his support to Murmu, recounting the “respect” his deceased father and ex-chief minister Ajit Jogi held for her. “Chhattisgarh is a tribal-dominated state, hence I request all MLAs in Chhattisgarh to vote for Murmu despite party lines to uphold tribal honour,” Jogi tweeted.
With virtually no elbow room, CM Bhupesh Baghel has been trying to counter the BJP by raising the case of another tribal leader. “The BJP ignored (Anusuiya) Uikey who is also a tribal leader and has worked extensively, just because of her background with the Congress,” Baghel said on June 22 in reference to senior tribal leader and Chhattisgarh governor Anusuiya Uikey, who was earlier in the Congress.
Sources in the state BJP denied this, saying Uikey’s name was only one among the many names in consideration.
While Baghel might be hoping to brazen it out, state Congress leaders, particularly its tribal MLAs, admit it is not easy for them to ignore Murmu’s candidature, and that they are under mounting pressure from the tribal community in the state, especially the organisation Sarva Adiwasi Samaj, which has already opened multiple fronts against the government.
On March 14, the Samaj had “gheraoed” the CM’s house with a 20-point charter over various issues. It has in the past rallied behind implementation of PESA or Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, and protested against mining in Hasdeo, police excesses in Bijapur, and alleged Hindu-centric policies of the government. Earlier in June this year, the Samaj also indicated that they would nominate their candidates against the government in the upcoming election.
A source within the government said, “Not supporting a tribal candidate might cost the representatives more angst from the community, something that the BJP is counting on in the state.”
📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates