In a setback to the Congress in Gujarat, the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) of Chhotu Vasava on Wednesday said that it would contest six Lok Sabha seats in the state on its own and ruled out any tie-up with the main opposition party.
At the state level meeting of the BTP, held in Jhagadia in Bharuch district, party’s national president Mahesh Vasava told district unit chiefs that there would be no alliance with the Congress, and asked them to shortlist the candidates.
“We have decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls independently without the support of the Congress. At the meeting, we decided to contest on six seats — Valsad, Bardoli in Surat, Bharuch, Chhota Udepur, Dahod and Sabarkantha. We have also decided to field our candidate from Silvassa in the Union Territory of Daman & Diu. We have told our unit presidents of these districts to come up with a list of probable candidates in the next couple of days. We will decide on the names of the candidates at the party’s working committee meeting which will be held later,” Mahesh Vasava told The Indian Express.
“We are also planning to field our candidates in some seats in Saurashtra region, Anand and Navsari districts. For that, our leaders are working on it,” he added.
The announcement comes a day after the Congress Working Committee met in Ahmedabad.
Why the tribal party counts
After making electoral entry in Rajasthan Assembly with two seats last year, the BTP has been on a strong wicket and in a better bargaining position since its formation post the splitting of the JD(U) in Gujarat. By challenging the Congress, with which it had allied in the 2017 Assembly polls, the BTP, which has a strong hold in the tribal belt of the state, could be looking at a post-poll alliance to stay on the side of power.
The BTP, which has a considerable influence in the tribal belt of south Gujarat, had an electoral alliance with the Congress during the 2017 Assembly polls, and won two of the five Assembly seats which it had contested then.
Sources in the BTP, however, said that the party leaders were miffed with the Congress after they were not invited to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders on Tuesday. “Our leader Mahesh Vasava or his father Chhotu Vasava should have been invited to meet central Congress leadership for seat-sharing talks. But it was not done. This has angered BTP leadership,” said a party source.
Moreover, sources said that Bharuch seat has been the sticky issue for the two parties. While BTP wants to field Chhotu Vasava from Bharuch on its party symbol, the Congress wants him to contest on their symbol.
BTP president Mahesh Vasava, however, said that the decision to not have any alliance with the Congress was taken as it had failed to raise issues concerning tribals at its CWC meeting.
“The reason we are not forging an alliance with the Congress is that at the Adalaj rally of the party, not a single leader raised the issues of the displacement of lakhs of tribals from forest land following the Supreme Court’s order. If they (Congress) don’t take up the issues of tribals at their public meetings, then we are not there to support them. We will not tolerate if they neglect us. Many tribals lost their land in the Statue of Unity project. Congress leaders should have protested, but they were inactive,” Mahesh Vasava said.
In the recently concluded Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BTS had fielded its candidates in all the three states — four in Madhya Pradesh, five in Chhattisgarh and 11 in Rajasthan — despite having no alliance with the Congress. While the Congress won all the three states, BTP won two Assembly seats in Rajasthan – the tribal dominated seats of Chorasi and Sagwara along the border with Gujarat.