Eyes on Dalit votes, BJP govt inaugurates over a dozen SC chaupals
BJP has tried to bring an end to this social-feudal dominance by building these chaupals for Valmikis and Harijans, who are Dalits.Updated: Sep 16, 2019 01:21 IST
In its effort to consolidate Dalit votes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state has inaugurated more than a dozen community centres for the scheduled caste community—Valmiki and Harijan chaupals—in the last one week. On Thursday, Public Works Department minister Rao Narbir Singh allocated more than ₹75 lakh to construct five more such chaupals in Gurugram district.
BJP workers said they believed constructing chaupals for the scheduled caste community was a small part of the overall strategy to rope in non-Jat voters. The scheduled caste community has an important role to play—the BJP is targeting more than 75 seats this time. In 2014, the party had contested 90 assembly seats and won 47 seats with a 33.2% vote share—that’s when it came to power on its own in Haryana for the first time. Of the 47, the BJP had won nine out of 17 seats reserved for the scheduled caste community. For the vote share to increase this time, the SC/OBC vote has to be consolidated further. The same year, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) had won 19 seats and the Congress had won 15 seats.
Currently, more than 150 chaupals for the scheduled caste community exist within the city. “In the last two years, a major thrust has been given to the construction of these chaupals for the Valmiki and Harijan community. It is a space for activities such as hosting a wedding or a group meeting. We wanted to give them a place where children could play and the elderly could spend their time,” Jawahar Yadav, a BJP spokesperson and former officer on special duty (OSD) to the chief minister (CM), said.
The concept of building chaupals started in 1978, according to Rishi Pandey, who conducts surveys for the BJP. “It began during the tenure of Chaudhary Devi Lal, who was then CM. Be it Valmiki, Harijan or Rajput, chaupals for each community have been a part of Haryana’s culture. However, the Jats remain a dominant community.”
Pandey said that in the last four years, the BJP has tried to bring an end to this social-feudal dominance by building these chaupals for Valmikis and Harijans, who are Dalits. However, psephologists believe that CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s government’s approach towards the scheduled caste community, instead of focussing on the Jat community has made the latter feel alienated—as the scheduled caste community forms the second-largest chunk of voters after the Jat community, Sanjay Kumar, director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), said that the Khattar government has to make inroads into the scheduled caste community segment to win in the forthcoming election—the assembly election will be held in the state in October to elect 90 members of the Haryana legislative assembly.
“The Jat community forms 30% of the total voter base, which is a big chunk in Haryana. But they feel alienated. Even BJP is aware that getting the Jat vote share is difficult in the upcoming assembly election. Therefore, they have to focus on the scheduled caste community that forms the second largest chunk, comprising 20-25 % of the vote bank,” Kumar said.
According to Kumar, the ruling party has to be sympathetic and appeasing towards Dalits to gain victory. “By doling out freebies, the BJP wants to mobilise Dalit voters in the state,” he said.
On Wednesday, chief minister Khattar announced an increase in the salary of sanitation workers, mostly from the Valmiki community, from Rs13,000 per month to Rs15,000 per month in urban areas and to Rs12,500 per month from Rs11,000 per month in rural areas. In July this year, he had announced arrangements to send Dalits to the shrines of Ravidas and Kabirdas in Varanasi. Over 100 devotees from each of the 90 constituencies had to be given second-class reserved train tickets for free. Also, a particular caste which was earlier in the other backward caste category was recently added to the scheduled caste list.
“The target this year is to get a 40% vote share, which is not possible without taking the scheduled caste community into consideration,” a senior member of the BJP, who did not wish to be named, said.
Congress leader Ashok Tanwar, on the other hand, said that the BJP is merely appeasing the community instead of addressing the real issue of unemployment affecting the community. “By constructing buildings, the ruling government cannot get Dalits in their favour,” Tanwar said.
First Published: Sep 16, 2019 01:21 IST