Patna, December, 8 : Buoyed by the success of the politics of development in Bihar, the Dalit leadership in the state is contemplating a course correction.
So far trapped in the framework of secular politics of the Congress and the NCP, top leaders of Dalits have decided to pursue an independent agenda based on development and align with any party that serves that end.
This was the message coming out on the occasion of Mahaparinirvan Din — the 54th death anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar— on Monday. Interestingly, all political parties of the state, including the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the MNS, looked in a competitive bid to bask in Ambedkar’s legacy on the day.
The indication that the Dalit politics in the state is in a churn came on the big day when dalit intellectuals came under a forum and discussed Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s unique social engineering backed by developmental politics which resulted in a massive electoral victory.
The Republican Party of India (RPI) led by Ramdas Athavale reckons that tagging along with the ruling Congress-NCP has become detrimental to the party’s independent identity.
He feels the RPI will have to make a concerted attempt to bring together fragmented sections within the dalits and charter an independent action plan to attract the masses.
The ill-treatment meted out to Athavale in the last assembly elections that led to his defeat at the hands of Congress-NCP and the failure to find a place for him in the Rajya Sabha has not gone down well among the RPI followers.
Noted dalit writer Arjun Dangle said, “Unless politics is driven by people-oriented programmes, it will not strike the right chord among the dalits. How long can one survive on ideological sermons? The poor dalit’s biggest concern is food, education and employment.”
The dalit organisations reckon that rampant corruption, disintegration of the cooperative movement and shrinking social welfare schemes are an outcome of the policies of the Congress and the NCP. The ruling combine has monopolised the entire system.
Prakash Ambedkar, who leads the Bharip Bahujam Mahasangh (BBM), believes the Congress is responsible for the backwardness of dalits because of its wrong economic policies.
The dalit leadership is also worried about the fact the younger generation is getting disillusioned with established leaders.
While they want their leaders to be more pragmatic, they no longer consider the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as untouchables. Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray has been working towards integrating dalits with sainiks to consolidate his mass support.
The Shiv Sena has taken the lead in Mumbai to display posters paying tributes to BR Ambedkar and welcoming the dalits to the city.
In a significant shift, Sena Bhawan, which always remains under heavy police security during the Mahaparinirvan Din to avert clashes between the sainiks and dalits no longer have any barriers. Instead, the premises of Sena Bhawan have become the resting place for the dalits from outside Mumbai.
However, Congress spokesperson Hussain Dalwai does not read much into this. “The Congress is ideologically committed to the welfare of dalits unlike other parties. So, I don’t see any reason why dalits will drift away from the Congress,” he said.