AAP’s ‘Tribal Face’ Chaitar Vasava Fights To Bring Winds Of Change In Bharuch

At 35, Vasava is the youngest sitting MLA in the Gujarat legislative assembly from Dediapada, and one of the youngest candidates fighting Lok Sabha polls

Chaitar Vasava Socials
Chaitar Vasava (fourth from left) Photo: Chaitar Vasava Socials

Midday, the scorching sun was at its peak and roadsides were lined up with stalls selling thanda from iceboxes. In Bharuch, the seawind from the nearby coastline brings some salt and sweat into the air too. At some distance, a few yellow and blue flags could be seen. Neither the heat nor any warrant can stop Chaitar Vasava, one of the two Aam Aadmi Party candidates from Gujarat, from campaigning this poll season.

At 35, he is the youngest sitting MLA in the state assembly from Dediapada, and one of the youngest candidates fighting elections this year from Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency. “This is the prestigious seat once held by Congress stalwart Ahmed Patel. Since 1992, all that the BJP has done is fight on Hindu-Muslim agenda. Mansukh dada has been winning for six terms but no actual work has been done in this region. Schools don’t have teachers, rehabilitation houses have not been built, unemployment and corruption are rising, and even farmers are not compensated for the land taken from them for roads and highways,” says Chaitar Vasava, who is currently out on conditional bail for contesting the polls.

Vasava rose to prominence over his advocacy for land and tribal rights in the Narmada district before he even began his political career with the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) formed by Mahesh Vasava in 2017. He used to be an aide of Chhotu Vasava, Mahesh's father and a prominent face in the region. A close confidante of Mahesh later, Chaitar was largely credited for his victory from Dediapada in 2017.

However, ahead of 2022 assembly polls, when Mahesh rebelled against his father and broke the pre-poll alliance with Aam Aadmi Party, Chaitar decided to leave BTP and join AAP. “I could not contest polls while I was with BTP,” he said.

By this time, AAP was already looking to make inroads in Gujarat and Chaitar was known for his campaigning and organisational skills. As he started campaigning, his wives, Shakuntala and Varsha (his co-partner), who were government employees, quit their jobs to support his political career. Eventually, he won the Assembly polls from Dediapadia on an AAP ticket.

His rising popularity in the tribal region surrounding the Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency speaks for itself. But recently he has made headlines for other reasons.

Trouble started in October last year, a few local forest department officials visited two farmers in Dediapada taluka in the Narmada district of Gujarat alleging that they were tilling the forest land illegally, destroyed the standing cotton crops and ordered them to stop cultivating the land. The farmers agitated, rushed to their MLA, Chaitar Vasava, with documents showing permission for them to cultivate on the said land in 2009.

Vasava met with the forest officials to discuss the issue and demanded the land be given back to the farmers along with compensation. However, in a dramatic turn of events, an FIR was lodged alleging that he threatened the officials and fired gunshots in the air. AAP’s Gujarat president Isudhan Gadhvi denied this saying a false case was registered after the officials got a call from “senior BJP leaders”.

A protest broke out among tribal communities in the region who were his staunch supporters. While Vasava managed to elude arrest for over a month, his wife Shakuntala and another individual were apprehended. Eventually, he turned himself in on December 14, simultaneously filing a bail application in court. In January, AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal, who was under scrutiny by the Enforcement Department and entangled in a defamation case in Gujarat, made a strategic move and pitched Chaitar – who was jailed at the time – as the AAP’s tribal face, urging the community to “avenge the insult” meted out to him. 

Speaking to Outlook, Vasava says, “People want change now. And I hope to bring this change for them if voted to power.” 

Chaitar is up against two more Vasava candidates this election. While the Bharatiya Janata Party fielded its sitting MP Mansukh Vasava again, Chhotu Vasava announced that his younger son Dilip Vasava would contest as a Bharatiya Adivasi Party (BAP) candidate this time.