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New Delhi Rahul Gandhi will launch the Congress’s Gujarat election campaign at a tribal rally to be held in Dahod on May 1. western state.

Amit Chavda, former Gujarat Congress president, told ETV Bharat, “The preparations for the May 1 event are underway.” In an attempt to highlight the shortcomings of the BJP government, the Congress has been raising the issues of tribals for the past several months. Recently, the Congress demanded scrapping of the Par-Narmada-Tapi river-linking project, saying it threatened tribal areas.

The state Congress, led by CLP leader Rathwa and MLA Anant Patel, has organized protests against the central government’s project in the capital Gandhinagar and affected areas like Dharampur, Tapi, Dang and Kaprala. “The project would have displaced around 50,000 tribal families. We will not let the government do this to benefit the corporations,” said Rathwa, who has been pushing for a white paper on the issue.

As it is highlighting the plight of the tribals, the Congress is also cautious about not being labeled as anti-development. “We are not against development, but will fight for the rights of tribals,” Rathwa said. “Around 6000 schools are being closed in tribal areas,” he said. Last month, Congress and BJP MPs fought a war of words in the assembly over the use of the words “vanvasi” and “vanbandhu” referring to tribals, claiming the words were unconstitutional and derogatory.

Leader of the Opposition Paresh Dhanani had argued that the term “forest dweller” was ambiguous and that in future outsiders may start living in forest areas to claim protection and benefits that tribal communities enjoy under laws. Later, AICC in-charge Raghu Sharma along with Gujarat Congress chief Jagdish Thakor, working president Hardik Patel, former Gujarat unit chief Amit Chavda clashed with the police as they tried to march towards the assembly from the protest site in Gandhinagar.

In 2017 too, Rahul had hit out at the BJP government in the state, questioning the funds allocated for the welfare of tribals. The party had used the tagline “22 Saal Ka Harab, Gujarat Mange Jawab” (Gujarat seeks explanation for last 22 years of rule). Rahul had alleged that the exodus had broken the back of the forest dwellers, saying that the ‘Vanabandhu’ fund of Rs 55,000 crore had not reached the tribals.

Sources said that on May 1 too, Rahul may launch similar attacks on the state government and remind tribals of the time when Congress was in power in the state.

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