BJD woos tribals in Kandhamal

BERHAMPUR, mar 14 : After dissociating itself from the BJP, the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD is out to win tribals votes, particularly in Kandhamal district. The  tribal-dominated district has three assembly segments, all of which are now reserved for the scheduled tribes after delimitation.

Apparently worried over tribal outfit Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samity laying claim to all the three seats in Kandhamal, as well as the Phulbani Lok Sabha seats, BJD is determined to strike an understanding with the tribal outfit. For that, a meeting will be held between functionaries of the BJD and the tribal organization on Sunday. "We will discuss seat sharing with the BJD in Bhubaneswar," said general secretary of the Samity Lambodar Kanhar.

Sources said the BJD's move to woo the tribal outfit is likely to stop tribal votes from going in favour of the BJP. Kandhamal witnessed largescale communal riots after VHP leader Swami Laxmanand Saraswati was killed on August 23.

Claiming that tribals constitute about 53 per cent of its total population in the district, the tribal leader said, "We will ask the BJD to leave at least three Assembly seats to the tribal organization in the district and we will support the ruling party candidate in Parliament," Kanhar said. Besides, the Kui Samaj would also ask for two more assembly segments in Bolangir and Kalahandi districts, Kanhar indicated.

"Whatever may be the outcome of the discussion, the tribal organization has vowed to contest in the forthcoming elections," he said. The tribal organization is spearheading the agitation against the Pana Christians, claiming that they are enjoying tribal benefits by procuring fake certificates.

In the 2004 assembly election, the BJP and the BJD shared one seat each in Phulabani (SC) and Baliguda (ST). The Congress had bagged Udayagiri (ST) seat. In the delimitation process, Phulabani seat is now reserved for the scheduled tribe.