Kanshi Ram and Mayawati started their politics with “Tilak, Traju aur Talwar- inko maro jute char” (beat the Brahmins, Banias and Thakurs with shoes) and “Vote hamara raj tumhara nahin chalega” (we won’t allow you to rule us with our vote). Besides this, in order to attract Dalits (Scheduled Castes.) they gave the slogans like “Baba tera mission adhura, Kanshi Ram karenge pura” (Kanshi Ram will fulfill the mission left incomplete by Dr. Ambedkar) and “Political power is the key to the entire problem.” Through these slogans they aimed at attracting and agitating the Dalits against the ‘Savarnas’ (higher castes) and they succeeded also to a good extent. This polarization of dalits was further facilitated by the political vacuum created by the division and downfall of Republican Party of India which was established by Dr. Ambedkar himself in 1956.
Since 1995 Mayawati made various experiments to broaden the base of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In the beginning it was known as the party of the Dalits only. Later on Muslims and Other Backward Castes were also co-opted. It fought the 1993 Assembly election jointly with Samajwadi Party (SP), a party of Other Backward Classes and made good gains. It resulted in the formation of the first coalition government of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh. This coalition of natural allies became a subject of discussion all over India but a clash of personal ambitions resulted in its fall in June, 1995. Mayawati grabbed the post of Chief Minister by making an unethical and opportunist alliance with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a party of orthodox Hindus and the bitterest enemy of Dalits. This put the Dalit movement and Dalit politics on the path of opportunism, bereft of principles. It not only confused the direction of Dalit politics but also fogged the difference between friends and foes of Dalits. This alliance not only gave a lease of life to the dying BJP but also broke the natural alliance of Dalits and Backward Castes for ever. This unprincipled and opportunistic alliance was justified as being essential for getting into power and party workers were misled by this briefing.
This alliance with BJP not only confused the Dalits but also led to Muslims moving away from BSP as they consider BJP their bitterest enemy. During the first BSP rule in 1995 some land was distributed to empower the Dalits because the party workers could exercise some pressure on the party leadership. Later on, in order to please the upper caste people, Dalit interests were given the go by and getting power became the sole motive of the party leadership. After Mayawati’s first tenure as Chief Minister, this process became faster and BSP raced towards ‘Sarvjan’ throwing aside the Bahujan. In every election moneyed, musclemen and mafias were given preference as they were considered winning candidates and Dalits were restricted to reserved seats only. Party mission was overtaken by money power and muscle power. Old missionary party workers and those who were close to Kanshi Ram were made to leave the party unceremoniously. Dalits were marginalized in the party but they continued to be with the party in the hope that one day they may also benefit but their hopes were belied.
Between 1995 and 2003 Mayawati became the Chief Minster of Uttar Pradesh thrice but she always took the help of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). During this period neither any Dalit agenda was chalked out nor was any effort made in that direction. In 1993, this author, during many discussions with Kanshi Ram, suggested chalking out a Dalit agenda but my suggestions were ignored. I think it was done purposely because declaration of an agenda brings up a duty to implement it and if it fails it brings up responsibility and accountability for the failure. It is a matter of regret and sorrow that a party seeking political power in the name of Dalits has not framed any agenda till today as a result of which the Dalits have been deprived of any gain coming from a government run in their name. The result is that the Dalits of UP are the most backward Dalits in whole of India barring those of Bihar and Orissa. During this period the moneyed and the musclemen of upper castes have been managing to get Assembly and Parliament tickets and enjoying the fruits of power whereas Dalits have a meager representation and are deprived of all benefits.
BSP, which is doing politics in the name of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, in its effort to secure power, has totally ignored his warning that “Dalits have two enemies. One is Brahminism and the other is Capitalism and Dalits should never compromise with them.” Mayawati has compromised with both by co-opting Brahmins and the corporate sector. At present Dalit politics has become a tool for power grabbing. It reached its height when before the 2007 Assembly elections Mayawati formed Dalit Brahmin Bhaichara Committees (Dalit Brahmin Brotherhood Committees) with a Brahmin president and a Dalit secretary.
The election success of BSP during 2007 was mainly attributed to the important role played by Brahmins and they got a lion’s share in power which was much disproportionate to their population. Dalits were reduced to the level of second class players in the party and in minister ship. This methodology of co-opting upper caste people was publicized as new “social engineering” and BSP was transformed from the party of Dalits to a party of Sarvjan (all inclusive).
During this period, slogans such as “Haathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai” (it is not an elephant but a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh- all Hindu gods) and “Brahman shankh bajaiga, Haathi dilli jaiga”(Brahmin will blow the conch and elephant will march towards Delhi) were coined to placate the upper caste persons much to the chagrin of Dalits. (Elephant is the election symbol of BSP). The Varna system of graded inequality became fully operative in the party and Dalits were further pushed to the margin.
Even now during the present régime of Mayawati, Dalits have been totally ignored and Sarvjan have occupied the front seats. All important ministerial posts have been given to upper caste people. Mayawati’s personal corruption has percolated to all the branches of administration and UP has been assessed to be “an alarmingly corrupt state”. The various welfare schemes aiming at empowering Dalits and other weaker sections of society have fallen a prey to all pervading corruption thereby depriving the intended beneficiaries of their benefits. Blatant corruption came to light during recruitment to the posts of safai karamcharis (sweepers). Similar complaints surfaced during other recruitments also. It is said that there might be only a few lucky persons who escaped payment of high price for government jobs. The funds intended for development works were spent on installation of statues, including her own, and creating royal memorials and parks.
Since 1990 UP has been deprived of any development and creation of employment opportunities. This lack of development has adversely affected the Dalits and they have become the most backward Dalits in the whole of India. As per 2001 Census their sex ratio, literacy rates and work participation rate are much lower than those of their counterparts in other states. A fall of 13% Dalits from the category of cultivators to the category of landless labourers during the last decade (1991-2001) indicates their disempowerment.
There has been no decrease in atrocities against Dalits during Mayawati’s rule. On the contrary, as a result of written and oral orders of Mayawati, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 has become inoperative. This act was intended to prevent atrocities and award stringent punishment to the perpetrators of atrocities on Dalits. Atrocities against Dalits are taking place as before but cases are not being registered by police. As a result of non-registration of cases, Dalits are condemned to suffer atrocities and deprivation from monetary compensation. The intention behind not allowing the registration of cases is to keep the crime figures low, thereby projecting UP as a crimeless state. In spite of this, UP stands first in whole of India in crimes against Dalits. As such Mayawati has totally failed to give even legal protection to Dalits.
The action of Mayawati in ignoring Dalits and giving preference to upper castes has resulted in disillusionment and anguish amongst Dalits. This has been displayed by them during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Most of the criminals, moneyed men and muscle men fielded by Mayawati were defeated as Dalits did not vote for them. This time, as earlier, Mayawati gave tickets even to those whom she herself had accused of threatening and assaulting her during the Guest House incident of 2nd June, 1995. But Dalits refused to oblige her and almost all of them were defeated.
Mayawati, as before, confined Dalits to 17 reserved seats, and only two of whom were elected. Brahmins, who constitute only 7.5% of the population, were given 20 seats, i.e. 25% of the total, whereas Dalits, who form 21% of the population, were given 17 reserved seats only. Out of the 20 successful BSP candidates, five are Brahmins and only two are Dalits. On account of the hold of Brahmins in the party, the people have started calling BSP Brahmins Samaj Party. From the angle of representation, Dalits are marginalized in the party. This is one of the major grievances of Dalits against Mayawati.
With a view to attract Most Backward Classes, Mayawati sent a recommendation to the Central Government for inclusion of 16 castes in the list of Schedule Castes. Earlier, Mulayam Singh had also made a similar attempt which was opposed by Dalits as it would affect their reservation quota. It was challenged in the court and had to be dropped. This action of Mayawati irritated the Dalits. Whereas Mayawati strongly recommended the case for 10% reservation for the poor among the upper castes, she did not show a similar interest in respect of Dalits. Her declaration of granting 10% reservation to Dalits in private sector has remained on paper only.
Mayawati’s way of ignoring Dalits and treating them as a bonded vote bank has irritated a large section of awakened and oppressed Dalits and has instilled in them a feeling of alienation. But, as before, Mayawati tried to befool them by projecting a possibility of her becoming the Prime Minister of India. But most Dalits refused to be taken in. A big chunk of Chamar and Jatav votes, which is the core vote bank of Mayawati, moved away from her to the Congress fold. The other Dalit sub-castes like Pasi, Dhobi, Khatik and Balmiki had earlier moved towards Samajwadi Party and BJP. The Most Backward Classes also deserted Mayawati. Afraid of Mayawati’s love for BJP, Muslims also walked away from BSP. This resulted in a limited success on 20 seats only as against a projected tally of 50-60 seats whereby she could stake her claim for the Prime Ministership.
The disheartening defeat of BSP during this election has clearly shown that the vote base of BSP has shrunk. Not only Muslims and Most Backward Classes have deserted BSP, even a big chunk of Dalits have moved away from it to Congress. Dalit society has been badly divided on sub-caste lines. Dalit movements and Dalit politics have fallen a prey to opportunism, corruption and immorality. Today it is standing at the crossroads. It is not only a danger signal for Mayawati but for whole of Dalit society. Will Mayawati and Dalit intellectuals think over it with their cool mind? If it is not done immediately it may again result in betrayal of Dalit interests. There is a fear of Dalits again becoming political slaves of Congress. It should be a matter of grave concern and serious introspection by all Ambedkarites.
Going by present signs, Mayawati has refused to learn any lesson from her debacle. As rightly pointed out by B.G. Varghese in Deccan Herald, “the lesson Mayawati requires to learn is that she has been cut to size not on account of conspiracies against Dalit-ki-beti (daughter of a Dalit) but because of her own greed, corruption and authoritarianism that is fast blunting her original appeal as a Dalit leader intent on forging a wider social alliance. People do not want innumerable self-aggrandizing statues and mausoleums at the cost of good governance and welfare. She perhaps still has time to learn and mend her ways.”
The recent election results show that Dalits have rejected Mayawati’s much trumpeted “Sarvjan formula” and she needs to do serious introspection and learn from her mistakes. Otherwise it will prove to be a missed opportunity.
S.R.Darapuri is a retired Indian Police Service officer, based in Lucknow. He can be contacted at email@example.com