Dalits who used to vote for Congress is upset with the party for failing to work for its upliftment. The party only considers them as vote bank and make some announcement for their welfare but fails to implement it. Today every party is busy trying to woo Dalit voters who comprise around 10.5% of the state’s population. Several factions among Dalit communities, the RPI has enough support to be potentially able to determine the outcome for up to 18 of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats. The community will be supporting the BJP in the ongoing Lok Sabha election. Due to prevalence of the anti-incumbency factor Dalits are looking for a change this time. The BJP-Shiv Sena has adopted social-engineering formula to woo the Dalits for regaining power in the state.
Arjun Dangale, a Dalit leader, says, “Price rise and corruption are the two major issues which affect Dalits the most. Their economic well-being was compromised during the Congress-NCP rule. They will not vote for the UPA.”
“Besides, the Indu Mill land has not been actually given for the Ambedkar Memorial despite all rhetoric, which has further angered Dalits. They will support the BJP-Sena-RPI alliance,” adds Dangale, who hopes the alliance wins up to 30 seats out of 48.
Recently the Congress and BJP have been criticising each other for disrespecting Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on the occasion of his 123rd birth anniversary. Both parties accused each other for neglecting Dalits.
“New-generation Dalits no longer want to remain trapped in ideological debates, which were the most convenient tool that the Congress and the NCP used to exploit to corner the Dalit voters for their own interests,” says Dalit writer Arjun Dangle. “Until the late 1990s, Dalits were caught in this secular-versus-communal debate. But the BJP-Shiv Sena is no longer perceived as untouchable.”
The Congress-NCP stands to lose the most in Mumbai, where it holds all six seats. In the other three regions, it has half the 12 seats that are marked by an RPI influence — three of the eight in Marathwada, both in Vidarbha (Nagpur and Bhandara-Gondia) and one of the two in the west (Pune, the other being Shirdi that is held by the Shiv Sena).
The anti-incumbency mood may also benefit the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which entered into the state in 2004 and has altered the political landscape since then. The party has influence in Vidarbha and may affect the outcome of at least six seats in the region. Also, a few Aam Aadmi Party candidates, like Medha Patkar, are likely to get considerable Dalit votes.
A failure to strike an alliance with Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B R Ambedkar, is another setback to the Congress-NCP, though it has lower stakes in the four seats where his Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh has an influence. It is the BJP-Shiv Sena that holds Akola, Buldhana, Amravati and Yavatmal-Washim in Vidarbha, where polling took place on April 10.
Today, who is responsible for the growing atrocities against Dalits in Maharashtra? Whether it is the misuse of police force or the denial of caste certificates to Dalits, the government is responsible. How can you expect Dalits to remain loyal to the Congress-NCP?” Ambedkar says.