The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has appeared as a direct challenger to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which clinched 23 out of 27 Scheduled Tribe seats in Gujarat.
The new entrant in the state’s politics directly fought with the ruling party in nine ST-reserved seats. Although AAP could win only one seat, and the Congress could win merely three seats, tribals seem to have found a new political ally in the Aam Aadmi Party.
The Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), which had in 2017 polls won two seats in alliance with the Congress, failed to open its account as it contested all 24 seats. Congress and BTP fought this election independently.
The ruling BJP more than doubled its seat tally from the 2017 Assembly polls. AAP candidate Chaitar Vasava defeated BJP’s Hitesh Vasava on the Dediapada seat, polling 1.02 lakh votes, the highest votes for an AAP candidate in this election.
In Jhagadia, seven-time MLA Chhotu Vasava was defeated by BJP candidate Ritesh Vasava. Congress held on to Vansda and Danta seats. It managed to wrest control on Khedbrahma, where tribal leader Tushar Chaudhary defeated Ashvin Kotwal, who had held the seat on a Congress ticket until he switched to BJP.
Arjun Rathwa said AAP candidates fought “honestly” in areas where liquor and money distribution swayed voters who contested from Chhota Udepur. Rathwa polled a decent number of votes, 43,880, but lost to Rajendrasinh Rathwa, son of veteran tribal leader Mohansinh Rathva.
“Several of our leaders polled an impressive number of votes and emerged as direct challengers to BJP even when we did not resort to distributing money and liquor as they did,” adding, “People have started recognizing AAP in the belt, and we will continue to work for them, “Rathwa told news agencies,
AAP has seriously hurt Congress in a belt once considered a stronghold of the grand old party, showing that the tribal population is thinking differently. The Scheduled Tribe communities constitute around 14 percent of the state’s population and are spread along its eastern belt, with 27 seats in the 182-member assembly reserved for them.
Since 1995, this is only the third time that the BJP’s tally in the Scheduled Tribe reserved constituencies has surpassed that of Congress. Congress and AAP promised to implement the Panchayats (PESA) Act when voted to power in the state. Kejriwal even vowed to ensure that a community member will head the tribal advisory committee under the Act.
Although the AAP fielded its candidates for all Assembly seats in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, it kept its prime focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, where it has been able to build a few strongholds in recent years.
The party gained ground in the BJP-ruled Gujarat after it won 27 seats in the 2021 Surat Municipal Corporation elections. The Congress, which had 36 councilors, lost all the seats in the civic body election.
According to several reports, the AAP plans to contest in most states going to polls next year. These states include Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The AAP is also strategizing to contest elections in Jammu and Kashmir, likely to be held early next year.
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