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HVK Archives: Scattered Dalit votebank

Scattered Dalit votebank - The Economic Times

Sudhir Kumar Mishra ()
23 December 1996

Title : Scattered Dalit votebank
Author : Sudhir Kumar Mishra
Publication : The Economic Times
Date : December 23, 1996

The jubilation over the triumph of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the recently
concluded assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh may have fetched snobbery for
Mr Kanshi Ram, but his party is yet to gain a ground in the neighbouring
state of Bihar the citadel of social justice. Although, the scheduled castes
comprise of nearly 22 per cent of the total population of this state, the BSP
has only two representatives in the legislative assembly.

True, almost all the political parties have been constantly exploiting the
Dalit vote bank, but none of them have ever cared to promote effective Dalit
leadership. The Dalit leaders are usually suppressed by their political
bosses and many of them have often being silenced after being showered upon
with personal favours.

None of the political parties have cared to give a Rajya Sabha or Legislative
Council ticket to the Dalit leaders, during the last few years. The election
of Mr Jagdambi Mandal to Rajya Sabha on a Janata Dal ticket of course happens
to be the lone exception. Still, the Dalits are yet to find a separate
political platform for themselves in Bihar.

The reason behind it is, of course, very simple. Earlier, Mr Jagjivan Ram
happened to be the undisputed leader of the Dalits. The upper castes too had
a deep personal respect for him. The Dalits, therefore, automatically aligned
themselves with the Congress and played a crucial role in its highly
successful innings.

In the meantime, the leftist parties organised Dalits for strengthening their
cadre base and carrying out various party programmes. The naxal movement of
the seventies also managed to consolidate the Dalit base to a certain level.
The socialist parties and the rightist parties too shed tears over their
plight and came out with various measures from time to time.

Most of the Dalits abandoned the Congress only after Mr Jagjivan Ram broke
away from it. However, most of these parties possessed only small pockets of
Dalit vote bank, while the lion's share was still enjoyed by the Congress,
despite all shortcomings because, Dr B R Ambedkar's ideologies were then not
exploited for satiating the vested political ends.

Mr Bhola Paswan Shastri became the first Dalit chief minister of Bihar, but
he never identified himself a messiah of the Dalits. Moreover his tenure also
was shortlived. The great socialist leader Mr Karpoori Thakur, another patron
of the Dalits, though himself a backward soon fell a prey of the conspiracies
by his own men. Even the clean image of Mr Ram Sundar Das has failed to
consolidate the Dalit base of the state. Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, now happens to
be biggest leader of the Dalits, but even his outstanding electoral
performances are the outcome of his strong forward caste base.

Although, Janata Dal's social justice has fetched nothing new for the Dalits,
the sustained efforts made during the Laloo regime has given them a voice to
protest. It is often alleged that Laloo's 'Kayapalat Abhiyans' yielded
nothing but cheap popularity. These moves, however, have undoubtedly
generated significant confidence among the downtrodden. Today, their
applications are not publicly torn into pieces in government offices.

Again, the scheduled castes have a sizeable representation in the government
offices. However, most of the trade unions are dominated by the leftist
parties. Several civil servants have tried to create a separate union of the
Dalit bourgeoisie from time to time, but their efforts proved futile.

The ideologies and programmes of these bureaucrats-cum-politicians failed to
convince the masses. Instead of solving the grass-root level problems, these
leaders lay more emphasis on conversion to Buddhism, because they felt that
Hinduism was the biggest hindrance in their development.

Ironically, most of the pioneers of the 'conversion movement' contested the
Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections on BJP tickets. Moreover, the personal.
life style of several Dalit bureaucrats also created utter confusion among
the masses and made them highly unpopular.

The BSP's unstable political ideologies and its frequently changing alliances
with Samajwadi Party, BJP and Congress (TV in UP has also compelled the
Dalits to raise several unavoidable questions. In Bihar, the BSP candidates
have only managed to divide the anti-JD Dalit votes and thereby ensuring a
smooth victory for Laloo.

The scheduled castes of Bihar, therefore, appear somewhat perplexed in the
absene of a proper leadership. Taking advantage of their ignorance and
poverty, the, outlawed ultra-leftist outfits easily recruit them in their
parties and they are gradually getting cut-of from the mainstream.

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