The Importance Of Being Kanshiram


Will BSP nurture budding young Ambedkarite or become a family party ?

Today we remember a great social scientist of India who changed the nature of politics and political movement in India. Whatever the brahmanical elite may say about him, late Kanshiram influenced the Indian polity more than anyone else in mid 1980s and the impact is still felt but in the middle of his political life, he fell seriously ill and could not really complete the mission that he wanted. Ofcourse, one of his biggest achievements of his life was to make Ms Mayawati, a political novice that time, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh which would have been impossible to achieve any other day. It was his political acumen that political parties thronged at him to ally.

There was a time when BSP was never considered a serious entity politically. His was a social movement which he built solidly on the foundation of loyalty to the mission by the dedicated workers who toiled hard with him, travelled across various Indian states, cycling to various places, slept on the floor and going hungry many days. This biggest irony of the political movements is that they are built on the dedication and commitments of the missionaries of first generations but the power politics play havoc with their dreams and sentiments. The politics today evolve around a ‘messianic’ individual and most of the time they become larger than the entire movement and therefore stagnate much before the maturity. South Asia suffer from these larger than lives individuals whether in politics, art, sports, literature who become too powerful and big with bloated egos and therefore reason of their collapse.

The importance of being Kanshiram ji was in providing spaces to diverse sections of people from Dalit Bahujan communities, many of them never even tasted power at the Panchayat level. It is this sense of duty to bring those minorities among the Dalits and MBCs to Bahujan movement and make them owner of it. I feel this has been his biggest contribution apart from the fact that he never went to any political party to get legitimacy. He was least bothered about the media and ‘mainstream’. That is the one thing; I respected and perhaps followed too. The only other person who never became fond of this mainstream till today is Mr V T Rajshekar, the editor of Dalit Voice, who was always critical of the Indian media and never tried to get legitimacy from them. The importance of BSP was in its unique character, a cadre dedicated to Bahujan movement and of course vision of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Ofcourse, many people would differ with their definition of the Ambedkar mission but if we put that debate aside which might be genuine too, none can ignore the factor that BSP became the most potent form of Ambedkarite political aspirations.

Kanshiram ji’s untimely death was the biggest blow for it. He remained confined to bed for several years and the movement started drifting. Ms Mayawati remained at the helm of the affairs of BSP and steer the party to power in Uttar Pradesh several occasion but the party is definitely passing through a very critical phase. All over the country, there is a huge unrest building up particularly among the youths, Dalits, OBC, Adivasi students and young dynamic Ambedkarites are challenging the status quo and seeking justice. Unfortunately, BSP has not been able to capture the imagination of those youngsters. The party’s response to these issues has not been powerful enough to give the confidence to the people. There is no doubt that Ms Mayawati still commands the biggest following and trust of the community yet she has not been able to develop the new leadership in the party. Nobody can deny the importance of Sarv Jan but it can’t happen at the cost of the young budding Ambedkarite aspirants. In the Sarv Jan movement you can’t bring the arrogant caste forces but it need to be an anti-caste movement which Baba Saheb wanted. In his political movement Baba Saheb Ambedkar had Brahmin friends but they were thoroughly dedicated to anti caste movement and in fact the burning of Manusmirti was done by Mr Shahashra Buddhe was a Brahmin himself. So, sarvjan movement should essentially have to have those people from diverse communities who believe in Baba Saheb’s mission of Prabuddha Bharata and essentially against brahmanical patriarchy. I don’t know how many Sawarnas in BSP today are dedicated to that vision.

I definitely feel that Manyawar Kanshiram would have definitely used the power of youths to build up the party if he were alive today. BSP need to be wake up and charged as still its cadres and people all over the country expect a lot from it. The important factor is that a man dedicated to Dr Ambedkar’s ideas build up a party without any political patronage or privileges, create dynamic leaders not just Ms Mayawati but many others and that too from the ground. The power of Kanshiram was people and the connect he had with them. He was never a great orator but his warmth with people was unmatched. He would remember the names of the ordinary karykartas and meet them, visit their homes to give them confidence to fight. Now these are the things of the past as what is lacking today is, the connect, with the Karyakartas as well as with the people. BSP was an oasis for the Ambedkarite because the leadership that Kanshiram built came from the movement and not from privileged political families.

We know well that in politics there are a lot of give and take, adjustments and so many things. None expect BSP to not respect that politics of inclusion or sarvjan but it is equally important that the non-Dalit political leadership that comes into the party adhere to Dr Ambedkar’s anti caste principles and annihilation of castes become the political agenda. BSP has the capacity to do so. The other sad aspect is the there is not powerful socio-cultural force which can become a guiding figure for the political parties and leaders of Dalit Bahujan Adivasis. The Sangh Parivar has been doing it for so many years and they understand the power of socio cultural movements because political power may come and go but the impact of cultural movements goes beyond power of politics. Dr Ambedkar’s biggest impact on us actually come through the cultural changes that he brought by embracing the path of Buddha on October 14th, 1956. BSP need to engage with diverse Dalit Bahujan communities for this cultural transformation, in Buddhism and, in that too in a political way to make a larger and powerful and everlasting political impact. Will Ms Mayawati nurture new young Ambedkarite talent to lead BSP in future like Mr Kanshiram did it or will the party move towards becoming new political family unit which will definitely not be according to the dreams of the man who left his family and dedicated his entire life for the society so far unheard and unseen in the recent political history of India.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email:


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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email:

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