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Monday Musings: Divided we stand united in our misery

In Solapur, one Dalit leader is contesting against another, thus shattering the idea of Dalit consolidation and unity

pune Updated: Apr 15, 2019 14:38 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Monday Musings,Solapur
In Maharashtra, Dalits have a sizeable presence, but this strength stands dissipated because of the disunity in the Dalit leadership.(HT PHOTO )

The extraordinary spectacle of Dalit unity is visible on just three days in a year. These days are April 14, October 14 and December 6- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar’s birth anniversary; the day he converted to Buddhism, and his death anniversary, in that order.

On these days, Dalits converge at various Ambedkar memorials across the country from far and near. They draw inspiration from the life of Ambedkar, pay homage to him and then disperse.

The tragedy, however, is that this most downtrodden section of Indian society hasn’t been able to convert this common love for Ambedkar into political unity.

This is most starkly visible in the Lok Sabha elections in Solapur constituency where one Dalit leader is contesting against the other. Thus, Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of the great Dalit icon, Babasaheb Ambedkar is contesting from Solapur as a candidate of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) with the support of the Asauddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM). Ambedkar is pitted against former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde, a Dalit leader who is identified more as a senior Congressman than with the cause of Dalit politics.

Inevitably, the Dalit votes here are bound to be split between these two candidates, much to the advantage of the Lingayat seer, Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya swami.

Dalit leaders can be found in various political parties. If one leader is pitted against the BJP, there’s another who’s a minister in the BJP cabinet- Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India. The same Athawale was previously aligned with the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena as was convenient for him.

While Mayawati is the most powerful of Dalit leaders in the country, her influence has remained limited to Uttar Pradesh.

In Maharashtra, Dalits have a sizeable presence, but this strength stands dissipated because of the disunity in the Dalit leadership. Personal ambitions, the inability of the leaders to work with one another and the failure to create a solid organisation with a second-rung leadership are some of the prime reasons for Dalit disunity. Consequently, the cause of Dalit empowerment has remained unfulfilled.

BR Ambedkar was the last great leader of the Dalits- an intellectual giant, a man of ideas and a reformer who urged his followers to educate their children at all costs. Ambedkar paid enormous emphasis on the transformative power of education as a means to elevate oneself and one’s family out of grinding poverty.

That cause was also left by the wayside as the Dalit leaders after him hankered after political pelf and power. Things are unlikely to change for the better for the Dalit community unless a new leader rises on the horizon and focuses solely on Dalit unity and empowerment.

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 14:38 IST