Even as the Congress came up with its best performance in the state in more than two decades in the just concluded Assembly elections, the voting pattern in tribal seats will be a concern for the party. Though Congress and its allies won the same number of seats as in 2012, and BJP one less, the ruling party recorded a huge rise in vote-share in tribal belts, a clear sign of its increasing penetration in seats considered traditional Congress strongholds.In 2012, Congress had won 16 out of the 27 tribal reserved seats, which are spread along the state’s entire eastern border, starting from the southernmost district of Dangs and right up to Banaskantha in north Gujarat.The BJP had won ten seats in 2012, while Chhotu Vasava had won the Jhagadia seat in Bharuch.In the 2017 elections, the Congress won 15 out of the 24 seats that it contested, while Chhotu Vasava’s outfit Bhartiya Tribal Party, with which Congress had a seat-sharing agreement, won two seats, taking the alliance’s tally to 17.BJP’s tally of tribal seats came down from ten to nine, while independent candidate Bhupendrasinh Khant won from Morva Hadaf seat. Khant has said that he would join the party that approaches him first. If he joins the BJP, its tally will rise to ten, the same as in 2012. However, for Congress, the devil is in the details.An analysis of the election results shows that Congress’ vote-share increased just marginally, while that of the BJP was up sharply.The analysis reveals that Congress increased its vote-share in tribal seats from 46.1 per cent in 2012 to 46.50 per cent in the latest polls. The analysis also includes the seats that its ally BTP had contested. On the other hand, the BJP, despite winning one seat less than in the previous elections, saw its vote-share going up from 40.40 per cent to 45.40 per cent, a massive increase of 5 per cent.To put this number in perspective, Congress’ overall vote-share increased by about 2.5 per cent from 39 per cent in 2012 to 41.4 per cent in 2017 polls.Though BJP’s vote-share in tribal seats was lower than its overall vote-share of 49.1 per cent, a 5 per cent rise is a huge one.Senior Congress leader Tushar Chaudhary was among the big losers for Congress in the tribal seats, while ten-time MLA Mohansinh Rathwa just scraped through with small margin.”The results were good, but we could have done better. The party should start grooming newer faces rather than depending on the same candidates again and again. This is the need in Gujarat, and also in the tribal belt,” said a Congress leader, requesting anonymity.The 2017 elections saw Congress coming up with its best performance in the state in more than two decades in the recently concluded Assembly elections. The party and its allies won 80 seats, while restricting the BJP to 99 seats, the ruling party’s lowest tally in past six elections.
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