Former Union minister and tribal leader Arvind Netam said on Thursday that he has resigned from the Congress as he was deeply disappointed by the way tribal leaders were neglected by the party.
He said Rahul Gandhi, who was the Congress president during the 2018 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, had repeatedly assured tribals of implementing PESA – Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act – in the state but his government crippled the legislation with poor implementation.
“I tendered my resignation on August 9, on World Tribal Day, after giving a long thought because the same day, the state government weakened PESA – that gives the community (tribal) the rights over ‘jal, jungle, jameen (water, forest and land)’. This resignation is a form of protest. There are several other reasons,” he told PTI.
With assembly elections in Chhattisgarh likely by the year-end, tribal outfit Sarva Adivasi Samaj (SAS) led by Netam has decided to contest in 50 of the 90 seats in the state, he said.
Netam said they will anyway field their candidates in 30 reserved constituencies. “We will also fight in 20 seats where tribals have a big swing on the mandate,” he said.
The tribal leader, who is in his 70s, said his outfit will welcome candidates from other communities as well. SAS is yet to be registered as a political party.
Over the scope of alliances, Netam said that he was in talks with CPI, CPM, BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) and Gondwana Gantantra Party but there has been no communication with Janta Congress Chhattisgarh Janta Congress (J), founded by former chief minister Ajit Jogi.
He also denied forming a tie-up with the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP (Aam Aadmi Party).
To a question that BJP leaders were speculating that SAS would dent the Congress’ vote bank, he said that their outfit won’t fight elections for the benefit of any political party.
“We are fighting for our constitutional rights which are in danger. The loot of resources that has already started in tribal regions, we have to make the community (tribal) aware of it,” he said.
Netam said PESA was introduced in 1996 to check looters of resources, but it was made ineffective with poor implementation.
He said they will ask the government on whose directive PESA was made ineffective.
“Rahul Gandhi as the party president said in rallies in Chhattisgarh (during 2018 assembly polls) that if our (Congress) party formed the government, then PESA would be implemented. After his assurances, his government crippled PESA,” he said.
Netam said they will meet Gandhi if the Congress leader visits Chhattisgarh and ask him about PESA.
Reacting to Netam’s talk of resignation, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said it was too late.
“He had already fielded a candidate in Bhanupratappur bye election. So any person who indulges in anti-party activity is automatically expelled from the party, what was the point of tendering resignation?” the CM asked.
Baghel said Netam was involved in anti-party activities and was playing on the behalf of the BJP.
“He was in touch with them (BJP). Seeing his seniority, the party did not expel him. If the party had expelled him earlier, then by today he would be ready to switch to a new party,” the CM added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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