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.
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.