Suresh Jamdade, a 37-year-old farm labourer from Parli in Beed district, undertakes a pilgrimage to Chaityabhoomi every year, first to pay homage to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and then to be part of the massive show of strength by Dalits at Shivaji Park in the hope that it translates into political gains for his community.
Every year, Jamdade manages to reach Ambedkar’s final resting place after waiting in a queue for hours.
His dream of seeing Dalit parties come together under a single banner has, however, remained unfulfilled.
The 12 factions of the Republican Party of India (RPI), a party Ambedkar had formed in 1956, dampened the hopes of lakhs of Dalits like Jamdade by failing to come together on one stage on Monday, despite the Dalit masses rooting for unity.
All the parties decided to maintain their separate identities at the event with only Ramdas Athavale and Jogendra Kawade sharing a common platform.
“We are always ready to come together to ensure the growth of the community. It is also up to other leaders to extend support,” Athavale said.
The party has split thrice in the last four decades into 12 warring factions with the most dominant being the RPI (Athavale) faction.
The factionalism has ensured although Dalits represent 13% of the voting population their representation in the state Assembly is low.
Dalit parties such as the RPI failed to win a single seat in the recently held Assembly elections.
“It was Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s charisma that helped hold Dalits together under one political banner. After his passing away, none of the present lot has the mass appeal that can bring
Dalits under one banner,” political analyst Surendra Jondhale said.
People like Jamdade remain hopeful that their leaders will come together to lead the community’s revival.
“I am eternally hopeful that all these leaders will one day come together and lead us towards the path of upliftment that Dr Ambedkar envisioned for us.”