A day after two legislators of the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) asserted that they would extend their support to the Congress government in Rajasthan, the party on Sunday (July 19) said it was in a position to punch way above its weight despite its minuscule presence in the state assembly.
“We have two MLAs in a House of 200, yet we are in the position of kingmakers,” party president Maheshbhai C Vasava said. He added that the party was extending its support to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot after he had made an assurance that its demands related to the development of tribal areas would be met.
“We have fought against the Congress and the BJP on tribal issues but if the government now assures full support on the issues raised by us, why shouldn’t we support it? After all, it is fulfilling the agenda of tribal welfare and development,” Vasava said.
On Saturday (July 18), at a joint press conference with the Congress, BTP legislators Rajkumar Roat and Ramprasad Dindor made it clear that they were with Gehlot. This ended days of uncertainty over the position of the Gujarat-based party in the political crisis in Rajasthan.
Though the two MLAs had supported the ruling Congress in the state in last month’s Rajya Sabha polls, when the power tussle between Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot re-surfaced recently, Vasava issued a whip directing both Roat and Dindor not to support any leader or party in case there is a floor test in the assembly.
However, Sagwara MLA Ramprasad Dindor expressed defiance of the whip, saying both of them will support the state government. Later, party office-bearers and the MLAs held discussions with the chief minister on their demands.
“We had supported the Congress government in the Rajya Sabha elections last month after an assurance by the chief minister on our demands,” Chorasi MLA Roat said. “But the demands were not fulfilled. Some of them could have been met in just one day,” he said. The party then thought of not extending support to him, the MLA said.
Last week, Roat appeared in two video clips, alleging that he was being stopped by Rajasthan police from travelling to his constituency in Dungarpur district. He claimed that police personnel had come in two vans and taken away his car keys. He also alleged that some people were forcing him to come with them.
The Sachin Pilot camp had circulated the videos and the BJP had questioned the state government over these. But Raut later dismissed the episode as a “misunderstanding” with the police. He said the party’s agenda was the development of tribal areas and they had raised 17 demands before the chief minister.
Some of the demands are related to reservation in jobs and the utilisation of funds for tribal areas. The BTP was launched in Gujarat in 2017, and expanded into Rajasthan the next year. In the December 2018 assembly elections, it fielded 11 candidates in the tribal belt in southern Rajasthan. Raot was 26 when he won and most other candidates too were young.
(With inputs from agencies)