The recent assembly elections in five states have shown that Dalit politics has once again failed miserably. In this election, the BSP, as a symbol of Dalit politics in Uttar Pradesh, was badly defeated and got only one seat. In the recent elections, the BSP has got two seats in Uttarakhand, while in Punjab it did not get a single seat despite the alliance with the Akali Dal. Apart from this, Azad Samaj Party of Chandra Shekhar, a new player of Dalit politics, had contested elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand but it did not get any success. Thus, Dalit politics in North India has failed miserably. Mayawati’s biggest Dalit vote bank in Uttar Pradesh has been badly shattered. A large part of it (non-Jatav/Chamar sub-castes) has already gone with the BJP and in the recent assembly elections, a section of Chamar/Jatav sub-caste also broke away from Mayawati and went to SP and BJP. Thus, the disintegration of vote bank of BSP in North India especially in Uttar Pradesh has made it clear that Dalit politics in North India has been badly scattered and today it is standing at a crossroads. In such a situation, Dalit politics needs a new radical alternative.
This is not the first time that Dalit politics has failed. Even before this, the Republican Party of India has been a victim of similar failure. As long as this party continued to follow the ideology of Dr. Ambedkar, it flourished but as soon as it fell victim to the individualism, opportunism and agendalessness of the leaders, it started to decline and now it is a fragmented segment. In the past, this party has also made great achievements in Uttar Pradesh. In 1962, this party had 4 MPs and 8 MLAs in Uttar Pradesh and in 1967 it had one MP and 10 MLAs. After that its disintegration started. During that time this party had a progressive agenda and believed in struggle and mass movement. This party itself started the countrywide land movement from 6th December in 1964. More than 3 lakh agitators were arrested in this movement and the then Congress government had to accept all its demands, in which land allotment was the main demand. After this the Congress started breaking it by taking advantage of the personal weaknesses of its leaders and giving them positions and other lures. As a result, by 1970, this party was divided into many pieces and today its leaders are maintaining their stomach by making compromises with different parties for personal interest.
Now if we look at the rise of BSP in North India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, it was in a way a result of reaction to the fall of RPI. Kanshi Ram had rebuilt the BSP on the ruins of the RPI. In fact, initially, most of the RPI activists had participated in it and it got great support from the middle class of Dalits. In 1993, it had achieved great success by forging an alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and the SP-BSP government was formed. At that time a powerful alliance of Dalits, Backward and Muslims was formed and its message went all over India. But unfortunately, this alliance soon broke down due to some personal interests. The most lethal thing about this incident was that in this support was taken from the BJP a vehement Dalits opponent party. Even after this, an alliance was made with BJP twice again, which was good for Mayawati’s personal interest but was fatal for Dalit interests. This led to the development of a directionlessness among the Dalits and they forgot to distinguish between friend and foe. Dalits were ordered to befriend the Brahminical ideology with which they were fighting. Later Mayawati sold Dalit politics to the same goons, miscreants, mafia and Dalit oppressors with whom they fought.
Although the BSP came to power four times, it never declared its Dalit agenda. The consequence of this was that the so-called Dalit government was formed, but no scheme was implemented for the empowerment of Dalits. As a result of this, there was emotional appeasement of Dalits and to some extent self-respect was also awakened in them, but there has been no change in their material conditions.
From the Social and Economic Census-2011, it has emerged that the two biggest weaknesses of Dalits in rural areas are landlessness and the other is manual labour. It is a matter of great regret that although Mayawati has been the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh four times, she has neither allotted land nor got possession of the lands allotted to the Dalits except in 1995. The consequence of this has been that the rural Dalits are still dependent on the land owners for wages, to ease themselves and get fodder for the animals. Due to this weakness, they are not able to effectively counteract the atrocities on them. It seems that perhaps keeping Dalits weak and dependent has been part of Mayawati’s politics too.
It has been observed that ever since the neo-liberal policies came into force in the country, Dalits have been its biggest victims. Dalits have been the worst affected by the cut in investment in agriculture and health services. The decline in the pace of employment generation in the country has also proved to be very fatal for the Dalits. Reservation in government jobs has also become ineffective due to privatization. But Mayawati has completely ignored these ill effects on Dalits. In fact, Mayawati has also been doing the same kind of politics with Dalits as the mainstream parties have been doing. Instead of making Dalits self-reliant and empowering them, they have only seen them as their vote bank by doing politics of symbols. Due to this attitude of Mayawati, Dalits have also become disillusioned with her.
The caste politics of BSP has strengthened Hindutva instead of weakening it, which BJP has taken advantage of. For this reason, it has been successful in integrating most of the sub-castes of Dalits into Hindutva. Therefore, it is natural for caste politics to have the same culmination. Same happened with BSP. On the one hand, when it was widely publicized that the BSP was primarily a party of Chamars and Jatavs, it was natural for other sub-castes of Dalits to react. This has been happening for the last several elections. In Uttar Pradesh, most of the sub-castes of Dalits have separated from BSP and moved towards BJP and SP. To a large extent, Jatav and Chamar votes have also separated from BSP.
It is clear from the above description that the caste politics of BSP in North India has failed due to opportunism, principlelessness, neglect of Dalit interests and corruption. Therefore, in this context, Dalits now need a new radical alternative. This option should be based on class interest above caste interest so that people of all classes with similar conditions can be included in it. Along with this, the struggle for freedom from caste discrimination should also be a major part of it. For this, Dalits have to come out of the narrow caste politics and become a part of wider democratic politics.
The All India People’s Front (Radical) (AIPF) has taken initiative in this direction since 2013. In the last assembly elections, we had contested from Duddhi (Tribal Reserved) Sonbhadra and Sitapur Sadar (General) seat. In this, the allocation of land under the Forest Rights Act in Duddhi and the education of girls was our main agenda. Our issues in Sitapur were Dalit respect and farmer’s rights. The main agenda of our party is to bring the issues of Dalit, Adivasi, working class and peasantry to the centre of politics and defeat the politics of corporate-funded Hindutva. AIPF is determined to embody the Begumpura concept of Sant Ravidas. For this our party is ready to join hands with all democratic, progressive, secular and democratic forces. You can read in detail about its constitution, policies and programs at www.aipfr.org . Come join us if you agree with our agenda.
S. R. Darapuri, National President, All India People’s Front