Chhotubhai Vasava, a six-time MLA from Jhagadia, Bharuch, Gujarat, came into national spotlight after his departure from JD (U) to support Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha Elections and unsuccesfully fought to retain the party symbol of arrow for himself. However, there is more to him than that. He has floated Bhartiya Tribal Party, is supporting Congress for pushing tribal rights, that are constitutionally guaranteed. He spoke to Outlook at his residence in Vasna village, as far-flung as it can be, with little mobile connectivity and travel through fair bit of forest, even as supporters and workers hovered around for his blessings. Even as Gujarat votes for 89 seats today, it will be a major victory for 70-year-old powerful Chotubhai if the tribal population chooses his autorickshaw over JD(U)'s arrow or anything else. Excerpts from the interview...
What are main issues for the tribal population?
For us the most important thing is implementation of schedule 5th and 6th and PESA. Only then, we will get our rights. We have met governor, President and they say they don’t know anything about it. People are languishing in jungles.
BJP has ruled here for 22 years but there is no access to health or education, or irrigation or employment. People who are against the constitution are against the society. How will they build India? They (BJP) announced demonetisation the same day as Trump’s election. People made him the PM, they don’t know, they were influenced by the Hindutva rhetoric. But Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of life. But Arun Jaitley and others keep talking about the same religious issues.
Are you worried about land acquisition, since the 5th schedule or FRA implementation is a problem?
Our land has been snatched from us. India has seventh of world’s land mass. If they are going to hand over our land to companies, where will we go? Our population of one crore and 33 lakh tribals will be deprived. They are making dams and corridors. I don’t know how we will benefit from the corridor. An estimated 16 crore people will be displaced in the coming years because of these projects. As many as 3000 American and other foreign companies will set up here but we are not owners of those companies. But we will not sit quietly when our land is given to outsiders. The water, the jungle, the minerals belongs to us. If they gave us what is ours, they won’t be able to give it to companies. They will have to ask us. That’s why there is no implementation.
Do you feel there is a lot of divisive politics this time with every one pitting one community against the other?
If Baniyas and Brahmins give up control, there will be no division among the others. After British left, they have always controlled everything including the cabinet. We don’t have a decision maker from among us. The ones who are sitting there have no intention of implementing constitution. Brahmins are only 3 % but they have divided the communities and managed to rule. Narendra Modi is an expert in this.
You have started your party after leaving JD (U)?
I didn’t leave JD(U). Amit Shah has played a dirty game. Because I defeated him in Rajya Sabha, he wanted to exact revenge. With the help of Election Commission, he ensured that I couldn’t get the party symbol. But it’s not going to work. All my voters, supporters know about this and there will be no difference in support for me.
Despite demonetisation BJP won in UP. Will GST really have an impact on the results?
UP has been won because of EVM. If they try the ballot, results will be different. They should have EVM and ballot both. Then BJP will lose for sure. Now we don’t know where the vote goes. We have come together with Congress to defeat BJP. Even Patels, who used to support BJP, are now supporting Hardik. BJP will lose this time. People are becoming aware now.