In a rude shock for the Congress in Gujarat, its long-time electoral partner, veteran Adivasi leader Chhotubhai Vasava’s Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), has struck an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the 2022 State Assembly polls.
Speaking to Vibes of India on Monday, national BTP president and Vasava’s son Mahesh Vasava said, “We have had a positive meeting with AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal today and we will contest the Gujarat elections together.”
Besides Kejriwal and Vasava, the meeting was attended by AAP’s Gujarat leader Isudan Gadhvi. A formal announcement of the alliance would be made on April 2 when Kejriwal and newly-elected Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann are expected to hold a roadshow in Ahmedabad.
Mahesh Vasava told VOI, “The AAP has agreed to include all our pending tribal issues in its manifesto for Gujarat. The seat sharing and other modalities will be finalised later.”
He added that it would be a state-level alliance, “where the BTP might in all likelihood contest all 27 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the State.”
Monday’s development comes days after a meeting some Gujarat AAP leaders had with the mentor of BTP chief and veteran leader Chhotubhai Vasava at their residence in Bharuch district and invited them to form an alliance with the Kejriwal-led party.
During the day, Mahesh Vasava, the MLA from Dediapada constituency, also visited a government school and a mohalla clinic. “After visiting the government school in Delhi, Mahesh Vasava said the educational opportunities among the tribal community can be increased if such schools are built in the tribal areas of Gujarat,” the Gujarat unit of AAP tweeted.
While the AAP has only to gain from this alliance, this is shocking news for the beleaguered Congress that is leading the major tribal agitation against the Par-Tapi-Narmada River-linking Project and is finding traction especially among the Adivasis in South Gujarat.
Though BTP founder Chhotubhai Vasava and Mahesh Vasava are the only two MLAs of BTP, they have considerable influence in South Gujarat and would eat into the Congress votes. The party had contested the 2017 assembly elections in an alliance with the Congress that captured 15 out of 27 ST seats.
But they later fell apart and in the June 2020 Rajya Sabha elections for some seats in Gujarat, both the BTP MLAs abstained from voting stating that their party is an independent outfit which keeps a distance from both the BJP and Congress. It might be recalled that it was Chhotubhai Vasava’s singular vote that had ensured Congress veteran, the late Ahmed Patel’s victory in the 2017 polls for the upper house.
Last year, the BTP had decided to sever ties with the Congress in Narmada and Bharuch district panchayats, and joined hands with the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) for the local body polls in February 2021. This was after Vasava’s party had to suffer a setback in a district panchayat election in Rajasthan when local Congress leaders ganged up with the BJP to keep the BTP out of power.