Mhow turns into a hub of Dalit pol­i­tics

Rush of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to Dr Ambed­kar’s birth­place is be­ing seen as an ex­er­cise be­fore Assem­bly polls.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

ers, in­clud­ing Kan­shi Ram, Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee, L.K. Ad­vani, Ra­jiv Gandhi, Naren­dra Modi, and BSP leader Mayawati, have been vis­it­ing Mhow to woo Dalit vot­ers in the state.

Re­cently, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Shivraj Singh Chouhan also paid vis­its to Ambed­kar’s birth­place.

How­ever, B.R Ambed­kar’s fam­ily did not stay in Mhow for long and three years af­ter his birth on 14 April 1891, his fam­ily moved to Satara (Ma­ha­rash­tra) in 1894, but the vil­lage has be­come a sym­bol of Dalit iden­tity.

Speak­ing to The Sun­day Guardian, Av­inash Jatav, a 33-year- old teacher from Ambed­kar Na­gar said, “Iden­tity pol­i­tics has gar­nered pres­tige and chairs for many po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, but the com­mu­nity gets noth­ing in re­turn. Dal­its are still liv­ing on the mar­gins of the city. It gives plea­sure to see a big po­lit­i­cal leader in our small town, but un­for­tu­nately, the small town’s prob­lems re­main the same, and that is what hurts me as a ci­ti­zen.”

Jatav, who com­pleted his grad­u­a­tion from Delhi Uni­ver­sity in 2005, said: “Em­ploy­ment is a big prob­lem for all, but when you are a Dalit, it be­comes even more dif­fi­cult for you. Since the 1990s, the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic sta­tus of Dal­its has sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved and ris­ing as­pi­ra­tion among Dal­its is vis­i­ble across the coun­try.”

Vi­jay Nigam, an un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent from Ambed­kar Na­gar, said: “Polti­cial par­ties are just ma­nip­u­lat­ing vot­ers by pay­ing re­spect to a par­tic­u­lar sym­bol of a par­tic­u­lar caste and get­ting votes in elec­tions. Not a sin­gle po­lit­i­cal leader is work­ing for the well-be­ing of the Dalit com­mu­nity. Dal­its are in a bad shape in MP.”

Ac­cord­ing to poll ob­servers, po­lit­i­cal par­ties are eye­ing 80 lakh Dalit vot­ers re­sid­ing across Mad­hya Pradesh. To give them a clear mes­sage, lead­ers are rush­ing to visit Ambed­kar’s birth­place. The iden­tity pride linked to this vil­lage is very near to the heart of the vot­ers of this seg­ment and they con­sider Mhow as their iden­tity and pride.

Manin­dra Nath Thakur, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst from the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Uni­ver­sity told The Sun­day Guardian: “Although Dal­its had only 6% vote share in the last Assem­bly elec­tions in MP, this seg­ment has in­flu­ence in about one-third seats in the state. Also, the ris­ing as­pi­ra­tions of young Dal­its in MP have cre­ated a spi­ral of protests and the new ag­i­ta­tion is go­ing to cre­ate more space for Dalit pol­i­tics in MP in com­ing times.”

With Mayawati’s de­ci­sion to go it alone in MP Assem­bly polls, the arith­metic, es­pe­cially for the Con­gress which was try­ing hard to stitch an al­liance with BSP, has been im­pacted. The BSP en­joys sig­nif­i­cant sup­port in at least one-third of the to­tal Assem­bly con­stituen­cies.

The Con­gress was keen to ally with the BSP in poll­bound states to prevent any divi­sion in the anti-in­cum­bency votes against the rul­ing BJP. The BSP’s de­ci­sion may help the BJP, es­pe­cially in con­stituen­cies where the con­test will be close, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say.

“The BSP’s vote share in the three states has fluc­tu­ated be­tween 6% to 8%, but the party has pock­ets of in­flu­ence. For in­stance, in north­ern Mad­hya Pradesh bor­der­ing Ut­tar Pradesh, the party has, in the past, won up to 20% of the to­tal votes polled, win­ning seven of the 34 seats in the re­gion in 2008. The party has a sig­nif­i­cant vote-bank in the eastern re­gion of the state too,” Thakur said.

Though the Sched­uled Caste pop­u­la­tion in Mad­hya Pradesh is 15.6%, the BSP has not been able to get that per­cent­age of votes.

In the 2013 Assem­bly elec­tions, the party con­tested on all 227 seats and polled 6.29% votes, win­ning four seats. It got about three per­cent­age points less than in the 2008 polls when it won seven seats. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Elec­tion Com­mis­sion data, in 40 Assem­bly seats, the com­bined votes polled for Con­gress and BSP in 2013 were more than the votes polled for the win­ning BJP.

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