MP: To Pacify Anger, CM Washed Tribal Man's Feet who was Urinated Upon, Congress Alleges Theatrics
As he washed the feet of the youth, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said he was saddened by the incident. | Image Courtesy: Twitter/@ChouhanShivraj
Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh's act of washing the feet of Kol tribal Dashmat Rawat (36) at CM House and then applying the water on his forehead is an attempt to cleanse the party's image dented with the “pee-gate” incident.
It came after CM Chouhan applied tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and presented him with gifts assuring the construction of a home and employment to pacify the anger the video had triggered.
Two days ago, a video of an alleged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker, Pravesh Shukla (30), a close ally and alleged representative of BJP's Sidhi MLA Kedarnath Shukla, urinating on Rawat's face triggered a political storm in the poll-bound state.
When cornered over the inhuman incident, CM Chouhan not only ordered to invoke stringent sections of National Security Act (NSA) 1980 against Shukla but also partially razed his ancestral home claimed to be named after his father.
"Seeing that video pained me. I apologise to you,” Chouhan told Rawat in a video he Tweeted from his official page. Chouhan called the man “Sudama”. “Dashmat, you are now my friend," he said.
After the opposition Congress targeted the ruling BJP on the issue, saying Shukla is a BJP leader and is an associate of Sidhi MLA Kedarnath Shukla, the BJP and the MLA have distanced themselves from the accused and rejected claims that he is a member of the party.
Interestingly, when the CM was washing his feet to pacify the inhuman act at CM's House in Bhopal, 600 km away, a team of tribal Congress leaders visited Rawat's home in Sidhi to meet the family.
"She said that the police took Rawat away two days ago, and he hasn't returned since then. Without informing the family, the police took them to CM House for theatrics," said MP Youth Congress president and tribal leader Vikrant Bhuria to NewsClick. "If Congress leaders like Ajay Singh and Kamleshwar Patel didn't sit in protest at the victim's house, Police or BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla would have captured the family to take them to Bhopal for camera show," he added.
On the Congress leader's request, she immediately called Dashmat Rawat to know his whereabouts. After a brief conversation between husband and wife, CM Chouhan took his phone to speak to his wife. On the call, CM assured construction of his home and the provision of employment. "I don't want money; send my husband back," she can be heard saying in the two-minute-long video. "Sending," CM replied.
Taking a dig at the CM's feet-washing video, state Congress president Kamal Nath said, “If he wanted to treat him well, he should have done it without the camera. The whole drama in front of the camera will not wash away his 18 years of misrule. CM Chouhan is under the impression that the tribal community will forgo after this theatrics. They will not, and this gimmick will not work now."
The Congress party worker believes that the pee-gate downed the BJP's tribal outreach programme, which it has been running for the last three years in a bid to win back tribal seats, which the party lost in 2018. In the last three years, to woo tribal voters, the BJP renamed railway stations, bus stands and colleagues after tribal icons and freedom fighters.
The BJP won 31 seats out of 47 reserved tribal seats in the 2008 and 2013 assembly elections, which was reduced to 15 seats in 2018.
More so, the party installed the statues of tribal icons and also replaced the International Tribal Day holiday with Tribal Pride Day on November 15- the birth anniversary of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda of Jharkhand. After being in power for 18 years, the party also introduced the rules of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act which was passed in 1996 and gives village rights to tribals.
The saffron party, which lost 16 tribal seats in the 2018 assembly polls, have run several campaigns and held massive rallies addressed by PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to win back tribal vote banks, including the introduction of home delivery of Public Distribution System (PDS) ration in all 89 tribal blocks.
"Such sporadic incidents can happen under any government. CM's apology to Rawat and stern action against the accused can be seen as an attempt to restore his social status and bring justice to the family," said a senior BJP leader Hitesh Bajpai.
In the last three years of BJP rule, Madhya Pradesh which has 22 % of the tribal population with the highest crime graph in India, has recorded several Atrocities against the tribals, which hit the national headlines.
A tribal was dragged to death in Neemuch in 2021. In Dewas' Nimawar, half-decomposed bodies of five tribals, including two kids, were recovered from a pit. The alleged Bajrang Dal members in Seoni lynched two tribals. The death of a tribal in police custody in Khargone, Khandwa and Indore also created a political slugfest in the state.
Upset with the latest incident, Ramkhilawan Kol, a BJP leader from Satna, submitted a memorandum at Collector's office demanding strict action. Speaking to NewsClick, he said, "Since the incident was horrific, we submitted our memorandum to the collector." When asked about the impact of the incident on the tribals, especially Kol voters who are loyal to the BJP, he said, "I don't know how the voters will react in the election, which is five months away, but this incident has triggered anger against the party."
Rawat belongs to the Kol tribe, the most backward and largest tribe of the Vindhya region, with a population of over 11.67 lakhs in the 2011 census. The indigenous voters play a decisive role in over two dozen assembly seats of the region comprising seven; Satna, Rewa, Sidhi, Singrauli, Shahdol, Anuppur and Umaria districts of the Vindhya region.
The 12 lakh Kol voters recorded around 78 % of the voting percentage in the last polls. In the 2018 assembly polls, when the BJP performed poorly in the other regions, which led to the end of BJP's 15 years of rule, the party got 26 seats out of 30 in the Vindhya region because of the Kol voters. To keep the Kol tribal voters intact, the BJP has held two mega events in the last four months to keep its flank intact and made big announcements, including the construction of Kol Garhi- a sacred place of Kols.
"I think the incident will create a wave against the four-time sitting MLA Kedarnath Shukla, not directly against the BJP," pointed out Umesh Tiwari, a Sidhi-based social commentator.
Speaking to NewsClick, Tiwari said, "Even though Shukla has been MLA for the last two decades, he did not get any ministerial berth or held important posts within the party. He has earned a bad name within the party owing to allegations of corruption, revengeful politics, his stand on caste and others."
When asked about the political impact on Kol tribal voters over the incident, Tiwari said, "Kol are one of the most backward and illiterate communities who religiously support the BJP. Most of the beneficiaries of the government schemes in the region are Kol."
"The chances are high that the news of the incident did not travel to them. If it did, it may not impact their voting pattern. But, the incident may impact the other tribal groups like Gonds, Bhils and others," he added.
Vindhya region, which has a sizable upper caste population, the action against Pravesh Shukla, accused of urinating on Rawat, has also triggered anger within the community.
"There was anger among the upper caste community after the video came to the fore that Pravesh Shukla had brought disgrace to the whole community. But the upper caste voters of the Vindhya region may not digest the demolition on CM's order, and the anger may translate into votes," said BK Bala, a Rewa-based social activist, to NewsClick.
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