Trinamool worried as its popularity falls in Jangalmahal. BJP on the rise among tribals
Even though the ruling All-India Trinamool Congress (AITC) swept the recently concluded Panchayat elections in West Bengal, it performed poorly in the Jangalmahal region. Jangalmahal is a local term used for the tribal dominated areas in the districts of Purulia, West Midnapore, Jhargram and Bankura.
Analysts feel this is partly due to factional infighting within the AITC on one hand and on the other, the efforts of the RSS that led to an increase in the BJP's vote share. For instance in Jhargram, BJP won 329 Gram Panchayats, not far behind AITC's 372. At Balarampur in Purulia, BJP secured 18 out of 20 Panchayat Samiti seats.
Imankalyan Lahiri, a political observer, feels that “BJP has been able to rope in Swami Aseemanand to mobilise Adivasis in various parts of West Bengal. He has already set up various schools in different Jangalmahal areas and this has given BJP an edge in organising their cadres. RSS also has increased their activities in tribal areas.”
AITC, on its part, admits to factionalism in the BJP ranks.
Churamoni Mahato, Trinamool MLA from Gopiballavpur in Jhargram, said “After analaysing the results, we found that the increase in BJP’s vote share is at the Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat level. It seems that many grassroot workers (from AITC) aren't happy with the leaders and may have voted for the BJP. At the Zilla Parishad level, we won almost all the seats in the region. We have submitted our report to the chief minister and urged her to take some steps to reduce infighting in the party in this region.”
A senior Trinamool Congress leader said “We have found that in some areas in Jangalmahal particularly at Balarmpur in Purulia, Salboni and Gopiballavpur in Jhargram, the MLA’s did not share a good rapport with ground level workers.”
According to Sukhomoy Sathpathi, Jhargram Zilla sabhapati of the BJP, “Trinamool Congress has made false promises to the people of Jangalmahal. The living conditions of tribals in the interior villages have not improved much despite Banerjee’s efforts. Around 20% tribals are prohibited from receiving rice at Rs 2 per kg as announced by the state government. On the other hand, the wealth of some Zilla sabhapatis of the ruling Trinamool Congress party has increased substantially”.
Sathpathi said “ There are many dissidents within AITC. In the next election, BJP may use the dissidents for our own interests. We are hopeful of increasing our base. We have won almost 30% Panchayat Samiti seats and 38% Gram Panchayat seats at Purulia, Jhargram, West Midnapore and Bankura”.
Maidul Islam, another political analysts, said “ The rise of BJP is Jangalmahal areas is because Banerjee failed to address the problems of the tribals. For the last 60 years, their livelihhod pattern has not been changed. The state government has announced rehabilitation package for the Maoist who surrendered arms and lead a normal life, but she failed to address the plight of the tribals who once marched against the atrocities perpetrated by the CPI(M). This has led to increase in factionalism among the AITC leaders and ground workers”.
Partha Chatterjee, state parliamentary affairs minister, said "We are yet to analyse the reports from Jangalmahal . We knew that our performance was not good. That's why we have decided to organise some camps in in those areas. We will hold meetings with all the tribals to discuss their problems."