Chhattisgarh Election Results 2023: Of the 26 seats in Chhattisgarh, the Congress won just four.
TS Singh Deo, former Deputy Chief Minster of Chhattisgarh, agreed that while on the face of it, tribals of the state have shifted allegiance to the BJP, contributing to the Congress's crushing defeat in the state, the fine print indicated something else. Citing vote share, he also contended that the Congress's performance was not bad, the BJP just did better.
Of the 26 seats in Bastar and Sarguja districts in the tribal-dominated state, the Congress won only four from Bastar and none in Sarguja. The Congress, which won 25 ST-reserved seats in the 2018 assembly polls, managed to secure just 11 this time.
The BJP won 17 of the 29 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category -- up from three. Overall, the party has won 54 of the state's 90 seats, the Congress got only 35, down from the 68 they bagged in 2018.
Asked about the party's dismal performance in tribal areas, Mr Deo said, "there is little doubt that the tribal vote has shifted". But he qualified that statement with a reference to the BJP's victory margins in multiple seats.
"One seat we lost by 14 votes, one by 100 to 200 votes, another by 94. The margins are not too much. I don't think there has been a shift," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview. He also disagreed that the Prime Minister's Rs 24,000 crore scheme for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups had much to do with the shift.
The BJP, he contended, had drawn up a better programme for women which has worked. "We also could not keep the sarva-adivasi samaj together. They drifted away formed a political party and contested," he added.
Citing the two parties' vote share, he also contended that the Congress's performance was not bad, the BJP just did better.
That the tribals have been unhappy in Chhattisgarh for the last few years has been clear by the volume of protests over the price of tendu leaves and other minor forest products. Tendu leaves or the "green gold" are the biggest source of income for tribals, who finally took it to the open market.
In May 2021, four persons died in police firing during a protest in Sukma district, 46 people were injured, a pregnant woman died in the hospital.
The backlash came now. As after the farmers' death in Mandsaur police firing, the farmer vote swung towards the Congress, the tribals turned to the BJP this time.
What also helped was the BJP's grassroot campaign, which penetrated Maoist-dominated areas of Bastar that outsiders feared to tread.
Then, days before the election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strategical announcement, launching a Rs 24,000 crore scheme for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups from neighbouring Jharkhand.