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Madhya Pradesh elections: Underestimating JAYS cost Congress dearly

Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) is a force to reckon with in the Adivasi-dominated areas and was seen as the third force prior to the elections. JAYS had announced that it would be contesting from 80 constituencies but the Congress offered the outfit only four seats, says Rajan Kumar

The results of Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections have gone in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the party winning 163 seats against 62 of the Congress. The Congress is shell-shocked and so are the people who were hoping for a change of guard in the state. They include workers of organizations representing the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. It is being said that ignoring Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) and Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) cost the Congress dearly.  

What is being said is not wrong either. JAYS is a force to reckon with in the Adivasi-dominated areas and was seen as the third force prior to the elections. JAYS had announced that it would be contesting from 80 assembly constituencies.

JAYS is not registered as a political party. It is a social organization, involved in social as well as political activities. Before the elections, JAYS national patron Dr Hiralal Alawa had announced that his organization’s candidates would contest as independents, unless the organization forged an alliance with some other party, in which case they would be nominees of that party. 

But as the elections drew closer, a majority of the JAYS leaders, who had been preparing to contest from their respective constituencies, went their own ways. That was partly because Dr Alawa – a Congress MLA – was in favour of an alliance only with that party. He also believed that the BJP and the JAYS were not on the same page ideologically. Ultimately, JAYS did enter into an alliance with the Congress. 

Announcing the alliance, Dr Alawa had said that the Congress had given tickets to four JAYS-supported candidates. They included Dr Alawa himself, who was a candidate from the Manawar constituency. The others were Montu Solanki (Sendhwa), Laxman Dindor (Ratlam Rural) and Chain Singh Warkade (Niwas). The Congress also made Rajan Mandloi, associated with the Adivasi Ekta Parishad, its candidate from Barnwani. It is said that this was done at the instance of JAYS.

The Congress’s decision to field only four JAYS workers as its candidates came as a shocker to those who had nurtured hopes of entering the state assembly through JAYS. During the run-up to the elections, it was said that Laxman Dindor, who was fielded as the Congress candidate, no longer enjoyed the backing of JAYS. It was also said that JAYS was playing the role of the B team of the Congress.  

The Congress’s decision splintered JAYS into innumerable factions. Many JAYS workers, who had pockets of influence in their own areas and were readying to contest from their constituencies, refused to toe the party’s line and began looking for opportunities in other parties. Others decided to enter the fray as independents. The Rajasthan-based Bharat Adivasi Party also fielded many JAYS workers as its candidates. 

JAYS workers contesting as candidates of different parties and as independents hurt the Congress the most. JAYS, to a great extent, managed to mobilize Adivasi voters in more than 80 assembly constituencies where the Adivasis have a sizeable presence. Also, the Adivasi voters were confused in some constituencies as candidates from different factions of JAYS as well as JAYS rebels were in the fray.

Congress leader Kamal Nath and a JAYS demonstration

Vikram Achhalia, one of the founder members of JAYS, who now leads JAYS Core Committee – a breakaway faction – had said before the polls that they would not allow JAYS to become the B team of any party. “Maybe, we will have to wait for success. But we will build an independent Adivasi leadership,” he said. He, however, does admit that the Congress had tried to develop an understanding with the members of his team, but failed.

The JAYS Core Committee announced candidates from 19 Vidhan Sabha constituencies. Antim Mujhalda, a former president of the Madhya Pradesh unit of JAYS, broke off to form his own faction and became its self-appointed president. This faction fielded 39 candidates. The Bharat Adivasi Party named JAYS workers as its candidates in nine constituencies. Then, there were scores of JAYS workers who, having failed to find favour with any of these factions, jumped into the fray as independents.  

Confusion reigned with some candidates making it to each of the lists announced by JAYS (Antim Mujhalda faction), JAYS Core Committee (Vikram Achhalia faction) and Bharat Adivasi Party. For instance, in Petlawad, Balusingh Gamad was the candidate of both JAYS Core Committee and Bharat Adivasi Party and faced Prem Bhuria of the Antim Mujhalda faction. Congress candidate from Petlawad, Bal Singh Medha, lost to BJP’s Nirmal Bhuria by a margin of 5,647 votes, with Gamad getting 15,611 votes and Prem Bhuria, 802. 

Similarly, JAYS Core Committee, Bharat Adivasi Party and JAYS Antim Mujhalda faction picked the same people as their candidates in Thandla, Maheshwar, Sardarpur, Rajpur and Mandhata constituencies. In Jhabua, Bagli, Timarni, Bhikangaon, Bhagwanpur and Betul, the two JAYS factions betted on the same candidate. Both announced the same candidates from Dharampuri and Barwaha but they did not join the fray. The BJP won both. In Dharampuri, Congress’s two-time MLA Panchilal Meda lost by just 356 votes. Here, Rajuben Chauhan and Shriram Dawar, both associated with JAYS, garnered 3,964 and 1,086 votes, respectively, and presumably, led to the defeat of Meda. 

JAYS can be considered responsible for the BJP’s victory from the Mandhata (general) constituency. The constituency has around 65,000 Adivasi voters and the BJP nominee defeated his Congress rival by a margin of just 589 votes. Rahul Chandel, who was the common candidate of the two JAYS factions, got 2,908 votes. 

In Nepanagar, JAYS candidate Billorsingh Jamra got the support of 16,365 voters. The Congress lost the seat. The Congress nominee Chandrabhaga Kirade was out of favour there, and JAYS, which had a formidable support base, seemed to have caused Congress’s defeat. JAYS was ostensibly backing Kirade but the grapevine has it that many JAYS workers worked against him. Besides, Ramesh Chauhan, associated with JAYS, who fought as an independent garnered 12,950 votes. 

In addition, Congress lost Pandhana, Alirajpur and Ratlam (Rural) seats owing to JAYS. In Ratlam (Rural), Congress fielded Laxman Dindor as its JAYS-backed candidate. But Dr Abhay Ohri of the JAYS Core Committee played a spoilsport for the Congress. 

The Congress lost the Bhainsdehi and Ghoradongri constituencies in Betul district, where the JAYS has a substantial following, as it refused to name JAYS workers as its candidates. In Bhainsdehi, JAYS-backed Sandeep Dhruve got 10,478 votes. BJP’s Mahendra Singh Chouhan emerged the winner with 97,938 votes while Congress’s Dharmu Singh Sirsam got 89,708 votes. 

The poll outcome in Ghoradongri was along the same lines. Congress’s Rahul Uikey lost because of the presence of JAYS-backed Smita Raj Dhurve. Smita garnered 6,150 votes. Sandeep and Smita both had sought Congress tickets because the JAYS had done exceptionally well in the District Panchayat elections in Betul district, especially in Bhainsdehi and Ghoradongri. The net result was that the Congress lost both its traditional bastions. 

Be that as it may, in the elections, Hiralal Alawa (Manwar), Montu Solanki (Sendhwa) and Chansingh Warkade (Niwas) – all associated with JAYS – won as Congress nominees while Kamleshwar Dodiyar won as a candidate of the Bharat Adivasi Party from Sailana. Warkade defeated BJP heavyweight and union minister Faggan Singh Kulaste. Rajan Mandloi, associated with the Adivasi Ekta Parishad and JAYS, won from Barwani as the Congress candidate. 

But it was not that JAYS hurt only the Congress. It damaged the BJP’s poll prospects, too. The defeat of BJP’s Monika Batti from Amarwara is being attributed to the 18,231 votes captured by Devram Bhalawi, a GGP candidate who enjoyed the support of JAYS.

Besides, JAYS was also instrumental in the BJP’s defeat in many constituencies in Malwa-Nimar and other regions of the state, including Badnawar, Barwani, Jobat and Timarni constituencies. These have been won by the Congress. 

But the Congress’s losses were bigger. It also lost many seats owing to the presence of the GGP, Bharat Adivasi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Congress was keen to strike an alliance with the GGP but that could not come about and both the parties had to face the consequences.

(Translated from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia)

About The Author

Rajan Kumar

Rajan Kumar is Assistant Editor (Hindi), Forward Press.

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