Dalit votes could be decisive in the 2019 general elections in India. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could get grand success in 2014 because the party made inroads into the Dalit vote. The BJP’s emphasis on development and economic growth for all captured the aspirations of the younger and educated Dalits. For the first time, the BJP won the largest number of 66 seats in 131 reserved seats. 84 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes. Similarly, 47 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes. According to the 2011 census, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprised about 16.6 per cent and 8.6 per cent respectively of India’s population. Keeping in the view of the social and economic backwardness of SC-ST, the provision of reservation in the Lok Sabha was made for the upliftment of these communities.
When contacted on this issue, former Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad said, “Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdas Athawale and Udit Raj should have fought Lok Sabha polls. Raising the Dalit issue in Lok Sabha sends the right message to Dalits. I won’t comment about Athawale as his party has an alliance with BJP. Absence of Mayawati and Paswan might create some problem. If Congress forms government, then justice will be done to Dalits and minorities. If these leaders are not contesting election, other Dalit leaders will come forward to raise the issue of Dalits.”
This year prominent leaders of Dalit community — Mayawati, Udit Raj, Ramdas Athawale, and Ram Vilas Paswan are not contesting the Lok Sabha elections. It means new Lok Sabha will be deprived of these vociferous Dalit leaders. However, a question arises, who will raise the issue of 20 crore Dalits of the country in the Lok Sabha? It is said that all prominent Dalit leaders are sidelined. In Maharashtra, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar is fighting against the former home minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Therefore, either Prakash Ambedkar or Sushilkumar Shinde will enter the Parliament from Solapur. It is also possible that both of them may lose. Prakash Ambedkar said that the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s (VBA) main fight is against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Prakash Ambedkar is the grandson of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. He is also contesting election from Akola. He was a member of the 12th and 13th Lok Sabha Akola constituency of India. Sushilkumar Shinde has served as the Union Home Minister but he is not very much popular like Mayawati or Ram Vilas Paswan among Dalits. New Lok Sabha will witness 84 representatives of Scheduled Castes but very few are of national level. They might be proved a puppet in the hands of their party leaders.
Jogendra Kawade, People’s Republican Party President said, “Opposition party leaders have raised their voice against atrocities against backward castes and minorities in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. They are fulfilling their responsibilities. NDA, BJP backward caste MLAs and MPs, Ram Vilas Paswan have not raised their voice against injustice done to Dalits. They are more interested in pleasing PM Narendra Modi.”
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has decided not to fight election but will take the Rajya Sabha route to the Parliament. Ram Vilas Paswan is the Lok Sabha parliamentarian from Hajipur. In 1977, he won from the seat with a record margin of 4.24 lakh votes. Since then, Hajipur has been Ram Vilas Paswan’s stronghold for three decades. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati also announced not to fight Lok Sabha polls. She said the most important task for her is to ensure the victory of the BSP-SP-RLD alliance on every seat it is contesting in Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, the Republican Party of India (A) Ramdas Athawale was denied a ticket from Maharashtra by BJP-Shiv Sena coalition. BJP has assured him to send to Rajya Sabha. Unfortunately, the ticket of Udit Raj, sitting MP of Parliament from North West Delhi was cut by BJP. After that, he quit the party and joined the Congress.
RPI (A) Mumbai unit president Gautam Sonawane said, “Many Dalit candidates are contesting Lok Sabha election so there won’t be much problem if Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan, Udit Raj, and Ramdas Athawale are not contesting the LS polls. There are representatives from Rajya Sabha who can address the issues faced by Dalits.”
The seven-phased parliamentary elections 2019 for 17th Lok Sabha are going on voting for the fourth phase in the country and the last phase of polling in Maharashtra will take place on Monday. In Maharashtra, the 17 constituencies going to polls are all the six seats from Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Nashik, Palghar, Maval, Shirdi, Ratnagiri & Sindhudurg, Shirur, Dindori, and Nandurbar. It is remarkable that Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh (80). Voting for 31 of these seats was held in the first three phases April 11, 18 and 23. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Amar Sable said, “Ever since the Modi government has come to power, it has resolved issues of Dalits pertaining to their reservation, security, and education. Congress has not done anything for Dalits. BJP has followed Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s ideology and worked for the welfare of Adivasis, SC, ST, and OBC. Mayawati, Paswan, Athawale, and Udit Raj not contesting polls will not make any difference as BJP has already worked for the upliftment of Dalits. The so-called Dalit leaders have not done anything for Dalits.”