Polls bring feasts for displaced tribals in Chhattisgarh

October 22nd, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), Oct 22 (IANS) With the announcement of elections in Chhattisgarh, it’s been a feast every day for thousands of tribal families displaced by the Maoist insurgency and lodged in makeshift camps in the state.With an eye on the vote bank, politicians are vying with each other to provide the tribals with their favourite food ‘bakra bhat’ (mutton rice). The estimated 20,000 voters in the camp will play a deciding role in three constituencies of Konta, Bijapur and Dantewada.

“Camp voters will largely decide the fate of the candidates because these three seats will surely see low voter turnout because of the Maoist influence in the interiors (of the state). Only those who manage to get their (camp voters) solid support will win,” said a Salwa Judum leader, who hosted a dinner Monday at Dornapal camp that has nearly 12,000 settlers.

The government runs 23 camps in Konta and Bijapur districts, and 12 in Dantewada, for thousands of tribal families, who were forced to desert their villages due to the Maoist rebels, after the state government launched the controversial civil militia movement Salwa Judum in 2005.

Dozens of politicians from Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, besides several Salwa Judum planning to contest as independents or having contracts for ensuring votes for a particular leader have been booking feasts for the tribals.

A source said: “There is an absolute rush among possible poll contenders and their supporters to win over innocent tribals and they too are enjoying such rare hospitality.”

“Several voters and their families are not even aware why there is a sudden rush for mutton rice feast or that the state has assembly polls next month,” he added.

The elections for the 90-member assembly will be held in two phases. Polls for 39 seats will be held Nov 14, and the rest on Nov 20.

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