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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: The battle for tribal supremacy in Gujarat

Political analysts caution that the BJP's entrenched grip over Gujarat's tribal-dominated constituencies remains formidable, posing a significant challenge to the opposition's electoral aspirations.

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: The battle for tribal supremacy in Gujarat
First Published Apr 8, 2024, 9:48 AM IST

The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have embarked on a strategic alliance with the aim of penetrating Gujarat's traditionally fortified Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongholds, particularly in the tribal-dominated constituencies, as the state gears up for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Despite this ambitious endeavour, political analysts caution that the BJP's entrenched grip over these regions remains formidable, posing a significant challenge to the opposition's electoral aspirations.

Scheduled for polling on May 7, Gujarat's electoral landscape comprises 26 parliamentary seats, with Dahod, Chhota Udaipur, Bardoli, and Valsad designated as reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes (ST). Additionally, Bharuch, although categorized as a general seat, boasts a substantial tribal populace.

The AAP has made preliminary inroads into the tribal heartlands, as evidenced by its success in securing victory in the Dediapada (ST) assembly segment during the 2022 state polls, which fall under the Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency. Seizing upon this momentum, the Congress has intensified its focus on Gujarat's tribal belt, marked by the recent Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi, aimed at reinvigorating party support in these regions.

Drawing from past electoral setbacks, both the AAP and Congress, united under the opposition INDIA bloc, have forged an alliance to consolidate anti-BJP votes and prevent their fragmentation. As part of this arrangement, the Congress has ceded the Bharuch and Bhavnagar seats to the AAP, signaling a collaborative approach towards challenging the BJP's dominance.

Despite Bharuch being categorized as a non-reserved seat, both the BJP and the INDIA bloc have strategically nominated tribal candidates, underscoring the significance of tribal representation in the electoral landscape. Notably, incumbent BJP MP Mansukh Vasava is set to face off against AAP's Dediapada (ST) MLA Chaitar Vasava in the Bharuch constituency.

However, amidst the opposition's optimism lies a sense of caution voiced by political analyst Amit Dholakia, who highlights the absence of discernible shifts in tribal voter allegiance away from the BJP towards either the Congress or AAP. Dholakia attributes the BJP's continued stronghold to a combination of government welfare schemes, grassroots mobilization efforts, and strategic defections of influential tribal leaders.

Moreover, the BJP has strategically positioned its candidates for tribal seats, aiming to consolidate its support base and thwart any potential erosion of its electoral dominance. Despite facing considerable obstacles, the Congress remains sanguine about its prospects, citing unresolved tribal grievances and the momentum garnered from recent outreach initiatives.

However, analysts remain circumspect, warning of potential disruptions stemming from the emergence of new political entities such as the Bharat Adivasi Party, which could potentially fracture tribal votes and inadvertently bolster the BJP's electoral prospects.

In anticipation of a closely contested electoral battle, Gujarat BJP spokesperson Yamal Vyas exuded confidence in his party's ability to secure significant victories in tribal constituencies, buoyed by past electoral triumphs and a slew of developmental initiatives spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration.

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