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New tribal outfit flexes muscle in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh

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Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal | Published: September 10, 2018 3:36:36 am

JAYS has drawn good crowds at recent rallies in tribal-dominated areas of Madhya Pradesh. (Express Photo)

THE BJP calls it a “political stunt” and the Congress is sure it will have no impact. But when Dr Hiralal Alawa, a 35-year-old tribal leader, said he got an invite from the Chief Minister’s home last month, he “knew it was more than a courtesy call”.

With Assembly elections around the corner, Alawa’s Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), a social organisation formed six years ago to fight for tribal rights, has been drawing good crowds in recent rallies across tribal-dominated areas of Madhya Pradesh.

“Neither have I got another call since nor have our demands been agreed to. Instead of getting any concrete assurances for our demands, an offer was made to me to join the BJP,” claimed Alawa, the son of a school teacher and now the national convener of JAYS.

The chief minister met Alawa because he often meets members of social organisations, said Gajendra Patel, who heads the BJP’s Adivasi Morcha. After meeting the CM, Alawa only talked about favourable response to the organisation’s demand. “He is maligning the CM now that he has announced his political plans,” said Patel, denying that Alawa was offered a post.

Alawa said that taking the political plunge is the only way he could work effectively for tribals who have been taken for a ride by the Congress and in recent years by the BJP. He has his own medical practice in Kukshi, Dhar district.

JAYS has not applied for registration as a political party yet, but has announced that it will contest nearly 80 seats, including 47 constituencies reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST), with a slogan “Abki Bar Adivasi Sarkar”.

Hiralal Alawa says he was invited by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to join the BJP, a claim the ruling party denies. (Express Photo)

The organisation held its first Adivasi Adhikar Maharally at Satrunda in Ratlam on July 29, and went on to organise similar gatherings in Jhabua, Ailrajpur, Dhar, Badwani, Khargone, Burhanpur, Khandwa, Dewas and Harda districts in the first phase.

The second phase began on August 16 and rallies were held in Hoshangabad, Betul and Obaidullaganj in Raisen district, which is close to the state capital. The third phase covered Anuppur, Seedhi, Umaria, Dindori, Mandla and ended in Jabalpur on August 31.

From illiteracy and malnutrition to migration and unemployment, JAYS has been taking up issues that it claims have found resonance with potential voters. It claims to have about 10 lakh members in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and MP.

Its key demands: Strict implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and Forest Rights Act, filling up the backlog in government jobs, new rules for promotion of SC/ST employees, and sharing of revenue from mining with local gram sabhas.

JAYS cut its political teeth last year when some of its members contested the college union elections. The group claims 162 candidates backed by it won seats in colleges at Dhar, Badwani, Jhabua and Alirajpur, among other districts.

Gajendra Patel of BJP said Alawa’s leadership was under contention because a breakaway group of JAYS announced that its members would not contest any election because that was not the mandate when the organisation came into being. “Instead of giving a direction to the movement for tribal rights, some people are nursing political ambitions. Their move to contest the Assembly elections is a political stunt,’’ Patel said.

Alawa claimed that the breakaway faction has been propped up by the BJP to “create confusion among tribals”. “JAYS will back any party other than the BJP after the elections. JAYS has made it clear that it will not concentrate on the Mahakaushal region, where the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) is active. The GGP had won three seats in the 2003 elections but got more than 20,000 votes in eight constituencies and more than 15,000 votes in 25 constituencies,” said Alawa, outlining his strategy.

Ajay Shah of Adivasi Congress, the tribal wing of the Opposition party, said the outfit is unlikely to have any impact on the polls, except in and around Dhar district. “Even if they do well and win a few seats, they will have to come to us because they don’t want to go with the BJP. JAYS members are essentially educated but unemployed youngsters,” claimed Shah.

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