The Congress has apparently played a masterstroke by appointing senior most tribal leader and former union minister Kantilal Bhuria as chairman of 20-member election campaign committee in the poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.
The party has also included young tribal leader – Omkar Singh Markam (MLA- Dindori) and a Muslim leader Arif Masood (MLA- Bhopalcentral) in the campaign committee. Madhya Pradesh has around 22 per cent tribal voters, while out of total 230 Assembly seats, 47 are reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates.
By appointing a tribal leader – Kantilal Bhuria head of the election campaign committee, the Congress has tried create an impression that the a large chunk of population will be led by a tribal leader. Hailing from tribal dominated area – Jhabua district, five-time ex-MP Kantilal Bhuria, will be leading a 20-member election campaign committee comprising of both senior and young party leaders such as ex-CM Kamal Nath, two-time ex-Chief Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh, former minster Jitu Patwari and Bala Bachhan and others.
State Congress head Kamal Nath’s bastion Chhindwara is also a tribal dominated area and he has been presenting his home district as ‘model’ of development for tribals. AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge and ex-president Rahul Gandhi would also addressing poll rallies in tribal and the Scheduled Tribe and the Schedule Castes (ST-SC) dominated regions in coming weeks.
“Appointing a tribal leader as a head of the election campaign committee will create a positive impression in the tribal areas. It is the Congress only which had appointed a tribal leader Kantilal Bhuria as state president also in 2013, whereas, the BJP talks about tribal centric schemes to woo the voters, but never allowed gave such representation to the leaders. I am happy that the party has assigned me a big role and my job would be to take the party’s messages at the ground among the tribals,” tribal MLA Omkar Singh Markam said.
In 2018, the Congress had won 36 tribal seats while the ruling BJP was reduced to 16 seats out of total 47 reserved for the tribal. This was a complete reversal of 2013, when the BJP had won 31 ST seats to the Congress’s 15. Notably, Madhya Pradesh has one of the largest tribal populations in the country, with 46 groups recognised as STs, of which three are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. Of MP’s 52 districts, six are “fully tribal”, while another 15 are classified as “partially tribal”.
The Bhil community accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the state’s ST population, followed by the Gonds at 34 per cent. While the ruling BJP apparently facing resentment from tribal community following the pee-gate incident in Sidhi last month. “Some more committees are also likely to be announced soon and different leaders from the different communities would be given prominent roles to play in the elections. The party has prepared its election strategy much before the ruling BJP. The Congress has always considered tribal and other backward communities as its part. Appointment of Kantilal Bhuria as head of the committee is example of it,” party spokesperson Abbas Hafeez said.