From Bhil-Bahna to Bhagwan Ram: Shifting narrative in State
   Date :03-Nov-2023

Bhil-Bahna to Bhagwan Ram 
By Bhavana ‘Aparajita’
Be it implementation of PESA Act by the BJP government in the State or Congress’ pitch against Government over atrocities on tribals, as the poll dates are nearing, the political landscape in the State reveals a striking shift in the narrative. Issues which were gaining ground seem to be replaced by new ones. The Bharatiya Janata Party is focusing more on scheduled castes and tribes, and women welfare schemes like Ladli Bahna etc since last couple of years as these constitute a sizeable number of voters. Congress too jumped in to the fray targeting these sections. But recently, a shift in campaign pattern has been observed. Senior leaders from Center and State of the BJP have started to train their guns on Opposition over the Shri Ram Temple issue. The Congress is accusing the BJP for using religious issues even after the announcement of code of conduct. Congress opposed the ruling BJP putting up hoardings taking credit for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. BJP National Spokesperson visits state and senior BJP leaders encounter Congress over Shri Ram Mandir. With this, a political controversy erupts in the State. BJP is accusing Congress of being ‘anti-Ram’, while the Congress is accusing the BJP of giving religious colour to the electoral campaign ahead of the elections. Talking about the Congress’ objection to the mentioning of ‘Ram temple’ in election campaigning, the BJP National Spokesperson and MP, Sudhanshu Trivedi has said that the grand old party should clarify its stand if it has an objection over Lord Ram or the temple.
He said that the name of Lord Ram is inscribed on the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi and Congress leaders used to visit temples during elections. Hitting back at Trivedi's remark, Congress National Spokesperson Ragini Nayak said, “Why does the BJP become mum when we talk about development and corruption.Last year, Opposition as well as ruling BJP intensified its tribal outreach in states, since last a couple of years, hardly any party mentioned Shri Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Government announced several schemes including implementation of PESA for tribals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah visited tribal-dominated belts in the State and announced pro-tribal programmes. Amit Shah announced the change in the status of 827 forest villages into revenue villages. In another programme, Shah distributed over five lakh LPG connections under the Ujjwala Yojana to Adivasis in Jabalpur’s Vindhya region, renaming Chhindwara University after tribal freedom fighters Shankar Shah and Raghunath Shah. Prime Minister Modi also attended Janjati Gaurav Diwas celebrations and renamed Habibganj railway station after the erstwhile tribal queen of Rani Kamalapati.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced the implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act with some changes in the state. In response, Congress leader Kamal Nath said it was the Congress who framed the PESA Act in 1996. Congress has constantly raised the issue of tribal atrocities in the State. It has held several rounds of press conferences highlighting conditions and atrocities against tribals under the 18 years regime of BJP. As tribal people constitute 21% of the population, the BJP won just 16 of the 47 tribal reserved seats. The Congress won 29. The BJP’s tally was reduced by 15 seats whereas the Congress got 14 seats to its kitty. In the month of August 2023, eyeing the crucial 48 per cent women vote in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a slew of sops including a hike in the monthly grant under CM Ladli Bahna Scheme, subsidised LPG cylinder and 35 per cent women reservation in Government jobs.
Now at the end of October, at a time when the polling dates are approaching, The issue of construction of Shri Ram Temple at Ayodhya is gaining ground. The Congress filed a complaint with the Election Commission against the BJP for using images of Shri Ram Temple at Ayodhya in its posters citing it violation of code of conduct.
As per the reports, the letter submitted by Congress at district-level by head Ravindra Kumar Pathak stated, “Even after the election code of conduct was implemented in the Indore district assembly elections in 2023, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is conducting electoral campaigns on religious lines, in violation of the code of conduct, by using hoardings and campaign vehicles on LED screens and social media.” “BJP supporters are putting up religious posters near Shastri Bridge, Regal Square, and Scheme No. 140. Posters claiming credit for the huge Mahakal Lok and magnificent Ram Temple have been displayed without the permission letter at Scheme 140, Gandhi Hall, Rajkumar Bridge. In addition, posters promoting the benefits of numerous government initiatives have been shown without the required authorisation letter. Since all of the hoardings mentioned above and LED screens violate vehicle regulations, cognisance is requested to be taken in this matter,” the letter added.