Elections

Banswara Verdict Is The Public's Rejection Of The Communal Stance Of BJP: Rajkumar Roat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his most-discussed speech in Banswara wherein he termed Muslims as 'infiltrators' and alleged the Congress intended to redistribute their wealth and women's mangalsutras.

Rajkumar Roat/ X
Photo: Rajkumar Roat/ X
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On April 21, Banswara, a tribal district of Rajasthan located in the south adjoining borders with Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh grabbed headlines, ahead of the second round of the Lok Sabha elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his most-discussed speech here, wherein he termed Muslims as “infiltrators” and accused the Congress's manifesto of the intention to “redistribute people’s wealth among them,” and that even women’s ‘mangalsutra’ (a piece of jewellery worn by married Hindu women), to be distributed to the “people who have more children”. The statement witnessed a backlash and on the very next day on April 22, Congress wrote to the Election Commission of India asking for PM Modi’s ‘immediate disqualification’ as a candidate in the general elections, citing that the words used by him were laced with “communal” connotations.

Forty-four days later, on June 4, when the Lok Sabha results were declared, the tribal district again grabbed eyeballs. This time it was the landslide victory of the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP), where its candidate Rajkumar Roat scored more than eight lakh votes defeating Bharatiya Janta Party's Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya with a margin of 2,47,054 votes. The Lok Sabha verdict here clearly establishes that the BAP has emerged as a tribal force against the BJP.

Speaking to Outlook, Rajkumar Roat, the newly elected MP from Banswara said, "We knew it from day one, that we will win. It's not only the win of the BAP but everyone who belongs to Banswara, the tribals and the non-tribals. People have shown faith in us and we will fulfil all the promises -- including the increase in the reservation in the areas under Tribal Sub Plan (TSP).

Rajasthan's scheduled tribes comprise 14 per cent of the state’s 70 million people. Roat who is also the sitting MLA from the Chorasi constituency of Banswara told Outlook, "We demand political representation from tribal communities and implementation of a separate Adivasi code along with the rights guaranteed in the constitution and adherence to the Supreme Court's Samata judgement".

When asked about Modi's speech in Banswara, Roat told Outlook, "People are tired of hearing the divisive and communal stances of BJP. Modi tried to mislead people with his speeches leading to hatred and targeting Muslims. But the people of Banswara and the rest of India replied to the communal speeches by voting against BJP."

How did the BAP-INDIA alliance work in Banswara?

Earlier after announcing Roat as BAP's candidate in Banswara, the Lok Sabha contest looked triangular and a threat to both the Congress and the BJP. However after Congress announced its seat-sharing agreement here and an alliance of BAP with the INDIA Bloc was stitched, the fight became directly with the BJP.

The alliance with the INDIA Bloc with BAP was a last-minute decision that brought embarrassment to Congress especially after it had announced Arvind Damor as its candidate for the LS polls, who also decided to go against the party but not withdraw its nomination. Damor was expelled from the Congress party, in the wake of disciplinary action but he contested the polls as an independent candidate and received 61,000 votes. But such was the public support for Roat that it didn't make any difference.

According to the sources in Congress, the alliance took a long time to materialise as the local leaders in both tribal districts were apprehensive of denting their standing with the rise of BAP. "After realising the significant influence that the BJP holds in the area, Congress' central leadership was in favour of the alliance but the local leaders in Banswara and Dungarpur were against it," a senior Congress leader told Outlook.

Congress extending its support to BAP helped the grand old party swing the votes against Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya, an influential tribal leader who crossed over to the BJP in February 2024.

The alliance of the Bharatiya Adivasi Party and Congress was also on the cards ahead of the assembly polls in 2023. However, the alliance did not materialise then and subsequently, BAP won three assembly seats in Rajasthan.

The Rise of BAP

In Rajasthan, the political arena is bipolar and is dominated by the Congress and BJP, leaving hardly any space for a third political force to emerge. Following the two consecutive electoral losses for the Congress in the 2014 and 2019 elections, wherein the party couldn't score a single seat, they were forced to look for coalitions.

Until 2018, the tribal districts in Rajasthan would also be ruled by either BJP or Congress. However, after the Gujarat-based Bharatiya Tribal Party, founded by its chief Chhotubhai Vasava was floated into the state, the tribal people in the belt had their voice. The BTP enjoys the support of Bhils (a sect of tribals in southern Rajasthan). In the 2018 assembly polls, the voters instead of voting for Congress showed a shift of preference by electing two MLAs from the BTP, for the first time. The BTP also supported the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in 2018 but later in 2021, it withdrew its support.

Differences between local tribal leaders in southern Rajasthan and the BTP leadership led to the formation of the BAP which stemmed from the BTP ahead of the assembly polls of 2023. The BAP which has a hockey stick and ball as its symbol won three seats in the Dungarpur and Banswara districts -- Aaspur, Chorasi and Dhariyavad – emerging as a threat to the two major players.

Apart from the BAP, the two other allies of India Bloc -- Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M), and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, won from Sikar and Nagaur. In Sikar CPI(M)'s Amra Ram defeated  Swami Sumedhanand of the BJP and in Nagaur RLP's Hanuman Beniwal (Nagaur) defeated Jyoti Mirdha of Congress.

In the past two Lok Sabha polls in 2014 and 2019, the BJP in Rajasthan had swept all 25 Lok Sabha seats, irrespective of whichever party ruled the state.  However, after a decade, the Congress has opened its account in the Lok Sabha polls in desert state. As per the official website of the Election Commission of India, the ruling BJP has won 14 seats in Rajasthan, whereas the Congress and its INDIA Bloc allies have managed to sweep at least eleven seats.

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