With Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections approaching, there are distinct signs of an attempt from within Dalits to break Mayawati’s vote bank.
Earlier this week, Dalit activist Udit Raj floated a platform, Upekshit Dalit Mahapanchayat, in the state to mobilise support from Scheduled Castes other than Mayawati’s caste of Jatavs, adding he was open to the idea of the platform developing into a political party.
Congress leader Ram Nihore Rakesh — a former three-time MP — and BJP-turned-Congressman former MLA Hari Shankar Kori are its key founder-members.
The charge of Udit Raj and his associates: Mayawati is working for Jatavs and not for Dalits, thus deviating from Dalit icon BR Ambedkar’s vision.
“In 2008, Mayawati had announced that her successor would be a Jatav, thereby throwing out Dalits from her fold. She also attacked other Dalit leaders on lines of their individual castes, calling me a Khatik, Bangaru Laxman a Balmiki and Ram Vilas Paswan a Dusadh,” Udit Raj told HT. “She is dividing Dalits instead of uniting them, which goes against Babasaheb BR Ambedkar’s vision.” He however hastened to add that “Ambedkariite Jatavs”, too, were welcome in the morcha.
JNU sociologist Vivek Kumar sees this as an exercise at attempting just to cut votes: “Political parties should not be formed on negative agendas only. That shows they have nothing to offer and may be propped by vested interests.”
Mayawati’s caste of Jatavs constitutes 56 % of the Dalit population in UP, which is itself 21 % of the state’s total population. Among the remaining 44 % that constitute UP’s Dalits, Pasis are the largest caste adding up to 16 % of the state’s Dalit population.