Explained: Why Congress Could Not Avoid An Alliance With BAP In Rajasthan?

A week ago Congress had nominated Arvind Damor from the Dungarpur-Banswara Lok sabha seat against the BAP candidate and the sitting MLA Rajkumar Roat

Rajkumar Roat on camel back to file LS nomination Photo: Twitter

On Sunday late at night, the Congress party in Rajasthan announced a seat-sharing agreement and stitched an alliance with the Bharatiya Adivasi Party (BAP).

“In the upcoming elections, it will support the candidates of Bharatiya Adivasi Party in the by-elections of Banswara Parliamentary Constituency and Bagidaura Legislative Assembly. Our primary objective is to save the Constitution and democracy of India," Rajasthan in-charge and Congress leader Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa posted on X.

The grand old party may have stitched the alliance looking at the possibility of sweeping the seat in the tribal district despite announcing its own candidate a week ago. However, the last-minute decision brought embarrassment to Congress after its candidate decided not to withdraw his nomination.

A week ago Congress had nominated Arvind Damor from the Dungarpur-Banswara Lok sabha seat against the BAP candidate and the sitting MLA Rajkumar Roat. Both Roat and Damor had filed their nomination on April 4, in the collectorate office in Banswara, in a gap of 30 minutes. While Damor appealed to vote for Congress, Roat on the other side was flanked by supporters appealing to vote for the BAP, instead of BJP and the Congress. 

Moreover, the Congress candidate on Monday took to social media and wrote a post in 'safeguarding' the honour. The move further forced Congress to expel him from the primary membership in the wake of a disciplinary action.

Since the announcement of the alliance, Damor's phone has been switched off.

What caused the delay in the Alliance

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.

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.

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 the coalitions.

Roat’s candidature had made the Lok Sabha contest triangular and a threat to both the Congress and the BJP. With a hockey stick and ball as a symbol of BAP, its candidates demand political representation from their communities among the tribal population, implementation of a separate Adivasi code along with the rights guaranteed in the constitution and adherence to the Supreme Court's Samata judgement. 
Rajasthan's scheduled tribes, make up 14 per cent of the state’s 70 million people.

The Rise of BAP 

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. It won three seats in the Dungarpur and Banswara districts -- Aaspur, Chorasi and Dhariyavad – emerging as a threat to the two major players.

Congress extending its support to BAP can help the grand old party swing the votes against Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya, an influential tribal leader who crossed over to the BJP in February 2024. This will be the INDIA Alliance's third seat-sharing in Rajasthan.

Earlier INDIA Alliance fielded two candidates in Rajasthan, CPI(M) leader Amra Ram also the National Vice President of All India Kisan Sabha and a four-time MLA from Sikar, and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) supremo Hanuman Beniwal for the Lok Sabha election from Rajasthan’s Sikar and Nagaur constituency, following an alliance formed with the Opposition Congress.

Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan will be held in two phases on April 19 and 26.