BJP’s bid to woo Gonds by renaming railway station after their queen

It recorded its worst performance in reserved seats in MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in Assembly polls

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has set the stage for the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by renaming the PPP-built Habibganj railway station after Rani Kamlapati, the 18th-century Gond queen.

“I thank PM Modi for renaming Bhopal’s Habibganj railway station after the tribal queen, Rani Kamlapati. She was the pride of Gthe ond society. She was the last Hindu queen of Bhopal,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted in Hindi.

Two days ahead of Mr. Modi’s scheduled inauguration of the first modernised and re-developed railway station at a cost of ₹100 crore, the BJP Government had shot a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs for renaming it.

Many believe Rani Kamlapati was the widow of Gond ruler Nizam Shah, chief of Ginnorgarh. They say the station was built in 1905 and was named Shahpur (presently one popular area in new Bhopal is known as Shahpura, named after Shahpura lake). In 1979, when the railways was looking for land for the expansion of the station, Habib Miya decided to give land free of cost and the railways named the station after him.

Mr. Modi’s visit will take place with a special focus on tribals. The State Government has organised an Adivasi Gaurav Divas to mark the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda and has termed him Lord. More than 2 lakh people from different tribes will participate in the programme and one crore tribals will be connected to it through webcast, as per Government estimates.

“There are two contexts for the mahasammelan. First, it is being held on the birth anniversary of Lord Birsa Munda. It is a matter of pride for the State that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will address it,” Mr. Chouhan said reviewing the preparations.

The Gond community comprises the largest tribal group in India with more than 1.2 crore population.

The community’s population is largely spread in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattsigarh and Jharkhand. And political parties take a lot of effort to win over the Scheduled Caste and Tribe voters.

In the last Assembly elections, the BJP recorded its worst performance in a decade in the reserved seats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

It won just two of the 28 reserved seats in the 2019 Jharkhand Assembly elections. In Chhattisgarh, it won just three of the 29 seats reserved for the STs and only16 of the 47 ST seats in Madhya Pradesh in 2018.

Madhya Pradesh Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bisahulal Singh and a senior tribal leader admits that the BJP was thrown out of power because it was unable to retain the reserved seats.

The sammelan is going to help the party in a big way, Mr. Bisahulal said.

In the midst of the preparations for the mahasammelan, Mr. Chouhan and party MP from Bhopal Pragya Singh Thakur dropped their demand to rename the station after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In 2018, Mr. Chouhan had announced the plan to do so. Only on Friday, the Bhopal MP had demanded that the station be renamed after Vajpayee.

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