Parties face uphill task in tribal heartland
- Displaced communities slam the doors on campaigners
- Demand for scrapping Polavaram gets shriller
The usual hustle and bustle associated with the election campaign is missing in the forest villages facing the risk of submergence under Polavaram project. Political parties that have been locked in a no-holds-barred fight for power are facing an uphill battle here. The doors have been slammed on them by the tribal groups that have joined the frontlines of the fight against displacement being caused by the project.
The project is being looked upon as a bane for the tribal habitations located on the banks of Godavari in over 10 mandals. Over three lakh people will be affected by the project. The tribal communities, mostly primitive tribal groups such as Kondareddies are bearing the brunt. For them, whether Modi can make it or Rahul will inherit is not the issue. The displacement by the project has been the sole issue that matters for them. They have been fighting the government on the issue for the past seven years.
Thanks to the political advocacy groups that have been striving to unite the tribal communities for the cause, they have resolved to boycott the polls. Accordingly, people in Kukunoor and Velerpadu mandals decided against exercising their franchise.
They have not allowed nominations to be filed for eight Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies and one Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency in Kukunoor mandal of Khammam district. The poll process was boycotted even in the neighbouring Velerpadu mandal. Parties coming in support of their cause have been asked to make a mention of the displacement issue in their manifestos before venturing into the pocket for campaigning. The agitation against Polavaram, which started with local-level protests on February 10, is spreading to other parts of the district as well as the neighbouring Odisha. A host of organisations, including the Adivasi Samkshema Parishad are up in arms against the project.
Representatives of ‘People Against Polavaram Project’, an organisation spearheading the movement in the tribal pockets said the Centre’s decision to merge five sub-plan mandals in Bhadrachalam division with the residual state of Andhra Pradesh proved to be the proverbial last straw. Sunnam Venkata Ramana, general secretary, and K Ramesh Babu, co-ordinator of the organisation, said people in this part of the tribal heartland are more identified with Telangana.
They have also been opposing rehabilitation of the displaced communities in the affected mandals. The Mumpu Pranthala Parirakshana Samithi has called for boycott of elections to the local bodies and its protests were expected to have a bearing on the poll process in Bhadrachalam and Palvancha divisions. Of the 134 gram panchayats, being affected, 40 have already adopted resolutions demanding the government to scrap the project and to shelve the move to merge them with successor state of Andhra Pradesh. Moves are afoot to organise grama sabhas in other gram panchayats for adopting similar resolutions.
The tribal organisations and some of the political parties wedded to the cause had planned to meet on April 14 to decide their future course of action.