Thursday, February 16, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Is Maya’s Dalit vote bank eroding?

Is Maya's Dalit vote bank eroding?

Akshaya Mishra Feb 16, 2012

Lucknow: Empowerment is alright. It addresses the age-old issue of
social discrimination and brings Dalits on the same platform as other
castes, at least politically. But what next? The Dalit movement is
grappling with the question now.

With the primary goal more or less achieved, has the movement reached
the dead end? Many Dalit experts believe so. Under Mayawati, it has
gradually transformed itself into a political movement from a social
one. It has shifted to a new orbit with which the original supporters
of Kanshiram find difficult to connect to. They are not comfortable
with the BSP embracing the sarvajan plank aggressively at the cost of
Dalit interests.

With the primary goal more or less achieved, has the movement reached
the dead end? AFP

"Not many of her Dalit supporters are with Mayawati now. The Yatavs
(Chamars) have cornered most of the benefits for the Dalits. This has
alienated other second rung groups such as Pasi, Dhobi, Khatik and
Balmiki from the BSP. They are shifting either to the Congress or the
BJP. Even among Yatavs, a section is looking beyond Mayawati,'' says
Uttkarsh Sinha, senior journalist and political analyst.

The younger generation of Dalits, better educated and with more
exposure to the world than the preceding generation, finds BSP's
politics stifling. The memories of caste oppression are not strong in
it neither does it find social discrimination as rampant as earlier,
thanks to the decades old Dalit movement. The empowerment aspect taken
care of, the youth want to move on make their free decisions. Their
primary requirement now is jobs, opportunities and a better life.

The BSP under Mayawati has been spectacular in its lack of fresh
ideas. Her progress from bahujan to sarvajan is a political necessity
and her agenda is guided by personal motives. Otherwise she has added
nothing to the social-political template prepared by her mentor
Kanshiram, say political observers. The party's agenda fails to meet
the aspirations of the Dalit youth. They are bound to break free
sooner rather than latter.

"Kanshiram had a think-tank to brainstorm complex issues. He himself
was a master at social engineering. Mayawati has such no brain pool to
guide her. Worse, she keeps herself aloof from the party's senior
leaders. A group of bureaucrats of the upper caste decide everything
for her. This has not gone down well with her supporters on the
ground. They feel cheated," Sinha says.

She has launched several welfare schemes for Dalits and other weaker
sections of society. But the actual beneficiaries have been the more
powerful groups within castes, who have siphoned off a huge amount of
funds. There have been reports of several cases of corruption in the
recruitment of sweepers and other recruitment drives too. The real
power – and money — has shifted to a miniscule section among the
Dalits. They are the Brahmins among Dalits enjoying the success of
empowerment to the full.

Those left behind are turning restless. Political parties such as the
Congress and the BJP have been quick to take note of it. It is no
surprise that the Congress is targeting the ati-Dalits. Mayawati,
blatantly partial to own Yatav community, has given no particular
reason for these groups to be happy. This election, it is possible
that her loyal vote bank will be under severe stress. The sense of
alienation is very strong.

Her desperation to get onto the sarvajan platform is being noticed by
the Dalit groups too. In 2007, she had aggressively courted the
Brahmins. To curry favour with the Most Backward Classes, she had
recommended to the Centre to include 16 MBC castes in the list of
Schedule Castes. She has also recommended the case for reservation for
the poor among the upper castes. Seen from a larger perspective these
are not bad moves per se.

But Dalit watchers view this as survival tactic from the BSP chief
than anything else. She had the grand ambition to become prime
minister in 2009 – an aspiration fuelled by her coterie of yes men.
From 2007 to 2009 she was busy making her popular platform wider,
ignoring her core support group in the process. The result was, a
large chunk of it, including from the Yatav caste, voted for the

She has made amends. But many Dalits are not convinced. She might face
their fury this time.


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