The recent election results show that dalits have rejected Mayawati's much trumpeted up "Sarvjan Formula" and she needs to do some serious introspection and learn from her mistakes; otherwise, it will prove to be a missed opportunity.
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 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 ‘Savarans’(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 has 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 (S.P.), a party of Other Backward Classes and made good gains. It resulted in the formation of first coalition government of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh state of India. This coalition of natural allies became a subject of discussion all over India but soon a clash of personal ambitions resulted in its fall in June, 1995. Kanshi Ram and Mayawati grabbed the post of Chief Minister by making an unethical and opportunist alliance with Bhartiya Janta 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. Party workers were mislead by this.
This alliance with BJP not only confused the dalits, but Muslims who also moved away from BSP as they considered BJP as their bitterest enemy. During the first tenure of BSP rule in 1995 some land was distributed to empower the dalits because till then the party workers had some pressure on the party leadership. But later on in order to please the Upper Caste people, dalit interests were given a go bye and getting power became the sole motive of the party leadership. After the first tenure of the Chief Ministership of Mayawati, this process became faster and the BSP raced towards ‘Sarvjan’ throwing aside the Bahujan. In every election moneyed musclemen and mafias were given preference, being 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 exit the party unceremoniously. As such dalits were put on the margin in the party but they continued to be with the party with the hope that one day they may also get some benefit of government, but their hopes were belied.
From 1995 to 2003 Mayawati thrice became the Chief Minster of Uttar Pardesh (U.P) but she always took the help of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). During this period none of the dalit agenda was chalked out nor was any effort made in that direction. During 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 with it the duty to implement it and, if it has failed, it brings upon them 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 to date as a result of which the dalits have been deprived of any gain coming from a government being run in their name. The result is that the dalits of U.P. are the most backward dalits in whole of India barring those of Bihar and Orissa. During this period the moneyed and musclemen of the Upper Castes have been managing to get Assembly and Parliament tickets and getting elected they have been enjoying the fruits of power whereas dalits with a meager representation have been deprived of all such benefits.
BSP, which is doing politics in the name of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, in its effort to secure power, has totally ignored the warning in which he had said that “dalits have two enemies. One is Brahmanism and the other is Capitalism and dalits should never compromise with them.” But Mayawati has compromised with both by co-opting Brahmans 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 Brahman Bhaichara Committees (Dalit Brahmans Brotherhood Committees) headed by a Brahman president and a dalit as secretary.
The election success of BSP during 2007 was mainly attributed to the important role played by Brahmans and they got a lion’s share in power which was very disproportionate to their population. Dalits were reduced to the level of second class players in the Party and in ministership. 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”(Brahman will blow the conch and the Elephant will march towards Delhi) were coined to placate the Upper caste persons much to the chagrin of dalits. The elephant symbolizes 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 U.P. 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 prey to the all pervading corruption thereby depriving the intended beneficiaries of their benefits. Blatant corruption came to light during recruitment to the posts of Safai Karamcharies (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 as a result of which they have become the most backward dalits in whole of India. As per the 2001 census, their sex ratio, literacy rates and work participation rates are much lower than their counter-parts in other states. There has been a fall of 13% of dalits from the category of cultivators to the category of landless labourers during the last decade (1991-2001) which indicates their disempowerment.
If judged from the angle of protection against atrocities on dalits, there has been no decrease 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. The cases of atrocities against dalits are taking place as before, but they are not being registered by the police. As a result of the non-registration of cases, the dalits are condemned to suffer atrocities and deprivation of monitary compensation. The intention behind not allowing the registration of cases is to keep the crime figures low thereby projecting a crimeless state. In spite of all this burking of crime, UP stands first in whole of India in terms of crime against dalits. As such Mayawati has totally failed to give even legal protection to dalits.
The action of Mayawati of ignoring the dalits and giving preference to Upper Castes has resulted in disillusionment and anguish amongst dalits. This has been displayed by them during the recent 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Most of the criminals, moneyed men and muscle men fielded by Mayawati have been defeated as the dalits did not vote for them. Mayawati now and earlier also gave tickets to the persons whom she had herself accused of threat and assault during the Guest House case of 2nd June, 1995. But dalits refused to oblige her and almost all have been defeated.
Mayawati as before had confined the dalits to 17 reserved seats only, out of which only 2 have been elected. If we look at the allotment of tickets during this election, it is found that Brahmins being 7.5% of total population of the state were given 20 tickets i.e. 25% of total seats whereas the dalits with 21% population were given 17 reserved seats only. Out of the total 20 seats won by BSP, 5 are Brahmins and only 2 are dalits. On account of this hold of Brahmins in the party, the people have started calling BSP a Brahmins Samaj Party. From the angle of representation, dalits are marginalized in the party. This has been 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 have harmed 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 the private sector has remained on paper only.
Mayawati’s way of ignoring dalits and treating them as a bonded voting 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 fool them by projecting a possibility of her becoming the Prime Minister of India. But most of the dalits have refused to be taken in. A big chunk of Chamar and Jatav votes, which is the core voting bank of Mayawati, have moved away from her to the Congress fold. The other dalits, sub-castes like Pasi, Dhobi, Khatik and Balmiki, had earlier moved towards SP and BJP. 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 of 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 voter base of BSP has shrunk. Not only have Muslims and Most Backward Classes deserted BSP, but a big chunk of dalits have also moved away from it to Congress. Dalit society has been badly divided on sub-caste lines. Dalit movements and dalit politics have fallen a pray to opportunism, corruption and immorality. Today it is standing at a crossroads. It is not only a danger signal for Mayawati, but for the whole of dalit society. Will Mayawati and dalit intellectuals think it over with their cool minds,? If it is not done immediately, it may again result in the 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.