Dear BJP & Amit Shah: You can keep trying in UP but the Dalits are not impressed
Amit Shah must be worried that his Dalit vote agenda has gone awry just a few months before Uttar Pradesh goes to elections.
Bharatiya Janata Party had rolled out ambitious plans to forge a Dalit-Other Backward Caste (OBC) front for the state. Together they account for nearly 60% of votes, as per the 2011 census and would have ensured BJP's return to power after over a decade.
The party's failure to rein in its fringe elements, however, have put paid to its plans to win over Dalits.
Hyderabad University's PhD scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide on 17 January 2016 and the public flogging of four Dalit youths by gau rakshaks in Gujarat's Una town on 12 July, seem to have demolished the Dalits' faith in the saffron party.
This was visible at two rallies which the BJP national president held in UP recently. The balloon was pricked on July 31 this year at Agra where a Dalit rally had to be cancelled because the numbers did not match expectations.
A crowd of around 40,000 was expected and the BJP-sponsored Buddhist Dhamm Yatra participants were also supposed to join the rally which Amit Shah was scheduled to address.
Officially, the party said that rain played spoilsport but BJP watchers said that Dalits have come out of their reverie and were solidly rallying behind Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati.
Another rally organised by the BSP turncoat Jugal Kishore on 16 September had such a poor attendance that Amit Shah, who was there to witness a display of Jugal Kishore's clout, made a quick exit from the venue at Ramabai rally sthal at Lucknow.
Swami Prasad Maurya, an OBC leader who deserted Mayawati, despite being the leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha had also organised a show of strength at the same venue on 22 September and had fared comparatively better.
BJP leaders, however, said that the size of the venue made the participation look unimpressive.
Impacts of the past
Professor Badri Narayan of Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) said that the impact of Rohith Vemula's suicide and the Una incident has percolated down to the Dalit voters who were now very clear about whom to vote for in the coming elections.
On Maurya's rally, Narayan said that the caste does not vote homogeneously hence Maurya leaving Mayawati may not cause a big dent to the BSP vote bank.
He recalled BSP cadre's comments that the party was a factory for churning out leaders to explain that the recent desertions would not damage Mayawati's prospects at the hustings. Mayawati herself believes that leaders are created by society.
Not the best call
The BJP had announced the development of five places as Panchteerth in honour of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The Panchteerth include Ambedkar's birthplace in Mhow, the place where he stayed in London during his student days, 'Deeksha bhoomi' in Nagpur where he got his education, Mahaparinirvan Sthal in Delhi and Chaitya bhoomi in Mumbai.
On 5 April 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Stand Up India scheme in Noida. The scheme is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among Scheduled Castes and women by giving them loan ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore to start new ventures.
The PM chose the birth anniversary of Babu Jagjivan Ram, who was a Dalit face of the Congress party for years, to kick-start the scheme.
Even earlier, Amit Shah's decision to bathe with Dalit seers at the Kumbh did not result in anything encouraging.
In May this year the BJP president had gone to Ujjain and had taken a dip in the Kshipra together with some Dalit saints during the Kumbh. It was dubbed 'Samrasta snaan' - the social harmony bath.
Since having a meal at a Dalit's house before elections is politically fashionable, Shah also had lunch with Dalits in Varanasi.
The allurement of all the above overtures has visibly waned. The trauma of Hyderabad and Una incidents far outweighs the advantage the BJP may have had initially. In the process, the BSP has emerged as a potential front-runner in the race to power.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen