Time for Mayawati to rethink Dalit politics

Chandra Bhan Prasad / DNA

May 13, 2007 & May 16, 2009, will be two big landmarks in the history of Dalit movements.
On May 13, 2007, the Uttar Pradesh societies gave the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) an absolute majority, and chose Mayawati as its ruler.

That splendid win is comparable to Guru Ravidas’s triumph over Brahmans. The most socially conservative society of Uttar Pradesh on its own will chose an untouchable as its supreme ruler. For the first time, the Brahmin had fallen at the feet of an untouchable.

May 16, 2009 was to be, primarily in the Dalit imagery, another landmark day. Even her opponents feared that with 50 MPs in a terribly hung house, Mayawati could indeed realise her prime ministerial ambitions. Dalits are shattered today. If the BSP was to repeat its
2007 assembly performance, the party ought to have won at least 41 Lok Sabha seats. That didn’t happen.

What changed between 2007 and 2009? Why couldn’t the BSP retain its 2007 support base? There could be a host of reasons. Few deserve mention. If we look at the results, we find a common pattern. Most parties which opposed the nuclear deal stand decimated today. The Left
looks virtually like museum material.

The question is: why did Mayawati jump into the Left camp? Why would the Brahmins of Uttar Pradesh or of any state for that matter agree with BSP’s reasoning for opposing nuclear deal: that “If the nuclear deal is signed, the US will attack Iran, and hence the deal is anti-Muslim”!

In opposing the nuclear deal, Mayawatti was sucked into the Third Front, mostly a conglomerate of Shudras/OBCs. Brahmins of UP along with Dalits want freedom from the Shudra/OBC rule of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Why should the Brahmins of UP elect Mayawati as the Third
Front’s candidate? Within a year, the Brahmin-led middle class of UP began distancing itself from the BSP. So, the party lost the opinion-makers of the state.

As the philosopher of universal peace, brotherhood and equality, Lord Buddha’s statues can be seen all over the world. It is our misfortune that we have fewer Buddha statues in India than we should have had. Similarly, BR Ambedkar is the father of the Indian Constitution. As
the intellectual father of India, Ambedkar’s statues should have been all over India. So is the case with Mahatma Jyotiba Phule. Morally, Mayawati is right in building memorials for India’s great social revolutionaries and spiritual emancipators.

But, UP is not a Dalit Republic. Dalits form 21 per cent of the state’s population and 79 per cent are non-Dalits. Ironic and tragic as it is, Lord Buddha, Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule or Kanshi Ram who worked for humanity, remain only Dalit icons.

So, when you put up statues of such great people, the non-Dalit voters think of it as a ‘waste’ of money. It is all together a different question that if Mayawati spent a similar amount of money in building statues of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, the same Brahmin-led UP middle class would have cheered Mayawati. UP is not a caste neutral society.

Caste is breaking, but it has not ended. From a purely electoral viewpoint, the BSP government has been annoying the UP’s middle class. If Mayawati does not rethink her policies, in the next assembly polls, she will stand third or fourth. The resurgent Congress will sweep the polls, SP will come second, BJP third, and BSP fourth. I am pained in writing these words.

As for the Congress, the party has won elections without even mentioning Dalits and Tribals. For now, the BSP faces the danger of turning into another Republican Party of India. Dalit politics is at crossroads today. I hope that Mayawati does a rethink fast.



  1. Bandra Worli Sea Link named after Rajiv Gandhi on 30 JUNE +Rajiv Jee deserves all respects and regards. But he belongs to a political party that is thriving in the name of Nehru Gandhi. So naming a mass welfare project afte Rajiv Jee gives unfair political milage to Congress since over 50 % indians are very poor and could mistake the state expenditure as having done by a particular family. This practice has to be stopped. Better name it as Chattarpati Shiva Jee Setu or any other freedom fighter who did not taste political power at New Delhi after 14 August 1947 or why not after Subash chnader Bose or Bhagat Singh or Raj Guru or Lala Laj Pat Rai or Tilak or Gokhle.
    This should hold good for all political parties.


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