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2017 elections and its implications for Adivasis

Latest posts by Ishan Nag (see all)

In 2017 state elections, BJP has made a pretty good start. Of the recently held elections in 5 states, BJP would be forming government in four states and as of now this is how BJP’s status looks (saffron is for BJP) :

Figure 1 : NDA is ruling 17 states (BJP alone 13, with allies – 4 Source : TOI),

Push for mining and resource grab

BJP will now have majority in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, they can now push through any bill and importantly constitutional amendments too. Bills like land acquisition, labour reforms, forest right dilution etc. BJP needs to deliver on their ‘Acche Din’ for which they need a huge push to economy and this can’t be done without a resource exploitation push. For tribals, more the mining-industrialisation, more will be the migration of outsiders into tribal areas and their displacement. A very good example of it is Bhilai, Korba and Jamshedpur – their demographics has significantly changed since inception, those who lost their lands for industry are languishing in margins. Same is the case with Odisha too.


If tribal parties there don’t unite they will be routed in next elections. BJP is no more seen as the party of upper caste and is getting a solid vote base among Bahujans (SC/ST/OBC).

It’s pretty clear that if Bahujans don’t form a broad coalition they are doomed. However, it’s no secret that tribal parties haven’t actually delivered good governance to Jharkhand, which they need to change otherwise the tribals may themselves dump them changing the vote percentage arithmetic itself.

Addition of more “STs” to reservation list

1) The Politics of Scheduled Tribe Status in Manipur ( March 2017)

2) 6 more tribes in ST list in Assam after BJP came to power (Dec 2016)

Some may deserve it, others may not. The net result being the dilution of reservation, case in point the Meena domination in UPSC, IITs and central universities which leads to lower representation of Adivasis from Schedule 5 areas in Institutions of importance. Domination of few communities in the reservation pie dilutes reservation by making the pie smaller for others especially when the state of public education is shoddy. Such dilution of reservation favors BJP style, as it makes reservation meaningless thereby making consolidation of different caste-tribes as a Hindu vote bank a possibility.

BJP faced absolutely no backlash for stalling reservation in promotion in Parliament and inconvenient court rulings. However I personally don’t think they will tamper with reservation, as that keeps most SC/ST/OBC middle class engaged to a peanuts of 2% jobs in govt. sector and keeps the “cream” of the society detached to the problems of their brethren.

If OBC cut-offs in various competitive exam be seen and how reservation is wrongly applied, OBC reservation is increasingly becoming redundant. BJP will love to make it more by adding even more dominant caste which helps their plank of social conservatism . For example: no reservation for OBC in prelims in JPSC (general cut-off was 210, OBC cut-off was 259), which meant OBC cut-off was higher than that of general caste in Jharkhand .

It’s 2017

You can’t fight elections with a mind-set of 70s, BJP has a very efficient and ideologically cadre flush with funds. Nitish got a punch in LS 2014 and got a lesson for state elections assembly election, when will other parties get it

This also has a lesson for tribals in Schedule 5 areas, we have to be at our analytical, organizational best, the competition is tough, and is going to be even more ruthless in coming years. You are prime target thanks to the resources under your feet and the philosophy of Jal-Jangal-Jameen. We are nothing without our forests and we are staring at that reality if we don’t organise effectively. Identity without any delivery mechanism or ideology isn’t going to sell in India. BJP has brought social conservatism to the table and is backing it up strongly. What are opposition party standing up for?

Why Bahujans shouldn’t worry about electoral loss of SP-BSP

After the BJP thumping win, I can sense palpable gloom among the Bahujan-center left intelligentsia and cadre. Some are expressing, many aren’t. However SP-BSP haven’t actually worked for masses. The primary indicator: UP’s govt. school, colleges and hospitals are competing with Sub-Saharan indices. Both have long relied on symbolic socialism, in background the coterie irrespective of caste around both BSP-SP have amassed huge wealth (not that BJP isn’t doing it).

BSP+SP+congress still has 50% vote share in Uttar Pradesh , if after Bihar elections , Mayawati and Akhilesh can’t see the writing on the wall and form a coalition, then one shall question their competence too . Also BSP seems to be a very opaque party solely controlled by Mayawati, there dismal social media presence and lack of public faces is an indicator that maybe they aren’t living in the present and haven’t appreciated the competition enough.

We need to judge political parties to deliverables. Cosmetic Ambedkar park won’t work, deliver on tangibles specifically education, health. Frankly a large no. of upper caste in UP aren’t also having the best of time, other states have raised way ahead of them since 90s. Had SP-BSP focused themselves on effective creation and delivery of public goods, such animosity between different castes groups would have been avoided, they along with many OBCs and Dalits made an economic choice to go with BJP. The sooner we accept it the better we could challenge it.

What’s ahead?

Elections happen, parties win and lose. We can’t afford to be fans of Netas or political parties. What’s important is whether we are able to defend our interests irrespective of the government or not. What we need primarily is smart, agile Adivasi (or Bahujan) pressure groups not political parties whose main aim is to survive the election cycle

I strongly believe Schedule 5 is losing and will be losing on a lot of issues if things pan out at the current rate of incidence particularly the resource push which the government and industries are craving for. This is not the time to cry and see at what we have lost but as Ambedkar said to educate, organize and agitate effectively. We immediately need an effective 5th schedule consciousness in Jharkhand, Orissa, MP and Chhattisgarh .We have common issues and our social geography is a great uniting factor without making it majorly a ‘us vs them’ issue.

Image : Representational.

Ishan Nag

Ishan is native of Nagri (CG) and belongs to Halba tribe. He's a dual degree graduate (Industrial Engg.) from IIT Kharagpur.

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