Demand for separate Bhil Pradesh queers the pitch in Rajasthan

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Jaipur (IANS) The political landscape in Rajasthan is witnessing a gradual change with the emergence of a new entrant - the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) that is now strongly pitching for a separate Bhil Pradesh by carving out the tribal-dominated areas of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Formed in Gujarat in 2017, the party, for the first time, forayed into Rajasthan's political arena by fielding 11 candidates in last December's Assembly elections. Dominated by students, the party won two seats in the 200-member house, leaving the Congress, which returned to power, as well as BJP, surprised.

BTP MLA from Sagwada Ramprasad Dindor said: "The BJP and the Congress are equally responsible for our present plight. They have used all our resources but failed to bring any kind of development for us." 

According to BTP MLA from Chorasi, Rajkumar Roat, "Crores of rupees are being sanctioned under the Tribal Sub-Plan in the budget but only 21 per cent is being utilised and rest goes into pockets of different officials. Now, when Congress workers ask me why we are raising a demand for a separate state, I honestly say: "'If a mother totally ignores one of her children, he will definitely try to set up his own identity to prove his mettle'".

In January, the BTP called a gathering in Banswara and raised the demand for a separate Bhil Pradesh.

"Yes, BTP is supporting the cause of separate statehood. We also want implementation of Schedule-V of the constitution which promises protection of tribal rights on their own land. The jal, zameen and jangal (water, land, forest) are ours, but different people are ruling it and exploiting it which is really sad," B.L. Chhaanwal, a senior BTP leader in Rajasthan, told IANS.

"Tribals are the real inhabitants of this land and they are being made migrants in the name of development. During construction of Sardar Sarovar dam, tribals from 526 villages were evacuated in Gujarat. Similarly, during the erection of the Sardar Patel statue, tribals from 72 villages were evacuated. They were asked to leave their own land. Is this justified," he asked.

On February 14, the BTP again organised a huge rally in Udaipur and reiterated its demand for a separate state where tribals can rule with their own resources. They also demanded that the exploitation of tribals be immediately stopped.

Speaking on the occasion, BTP state President Velaram Ghighra said: "Two of our candidates have entered the assembly as MLAs. Now we shall also have an MP from our party." 

The tribal leaders criticised the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying they had taken away their rights and hampered their development. 

"Neither the Congress nor BJP could ensure development of our land. They say a huge fund has been sanctioned for tribals, but it has not been used and hence we still don't have roads, electricity, hospitals and basic infrastructure in our villages. Our children die in hospital due to non-availability of resources and they can't go to school due to lack of roads," Chhaanwal added.

Interestingly, in both the constituencies that it won, the BTP pushed the Congress to the third place. And, with the BTP announcing it would field a candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, both the Congress and the BJP could have a fight on their hands.

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