Dalit politics takes a new turn
Two rival groups of Ambedkarites organised separate programmes at two different Bhim Nagries this year.
Gopal Pura in the Agra cantonment area had two celebrations on April 14, the 110th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar. One had Mayawati as the prime focus, the other had the ruling party leaders and Ram Vilas Paswan as major attractions.
Dalit politics and the BSP vote bank has thus been breached, say the local leaders. Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations in Agra, the Dalit capital of northern India, have traditionally been a grand affair with lakhs of people joining the three-day extravaganza.
This year's grand celebration was marked by a schism engineered by some ruling party functionaries who had been working overtime to make an effective dent in the BSP vote bank.
The dais used by the ruling party supporters had the nation's parliament as the backdrop, whereas the dais used by the rival faction had the Colombia University building in the background.
Ms Mayawati who addressed the huge gathering called Ram Vilas Paswan and party as the stooges of the BJP. She openly vexed eloquent about the justice-loving British regime which she said was far superior to the democratic government of the day. Had it not been for the British, Dr Amedkar would never have been in the Constituent Assembly.
Talking to newspersons at the Circuit House, Ms Mayawati demanded arrest and jail for those involved in the Tehelka expose. In her opinion only those Dalit leaders who had no self-respect were in the BJP.
At the other end, Dr Ambedkar's grand son Prakash Ambedkar, member of Rajya Sabha, blamed the present Dalit leadership for the crisis the weaker sections of society were facing. Caste based political parties did not have any ideological commitment, he said.
Republican Party of India president RS Gavai accused the BSP of encashing Dalit sentiments for elections. It had no principles or ideals and little wonder people were getting disillusioned with the BSP.
Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who addressed a huge rally on Monday evening, said the BJP was no longer an untouchable. He pooh poohed Ms Mayawati's tall claims and stressed on doing something "solid" for the downtrodden instead of just fuming and fretting without much ado.
Paswan said he had inducted thousands of Dalits into the mainstream through appointments and special schemes. Soon enough internet facilities in the villages would enable the weaker sections to be at par with the upper classes, he said adding that he never saw different layers of the society as mere vote banks. If the Dalits wanted to march ahead they should immediately get involved in educational and social uplift programmes in a big way.
The huge crowd that had gathered to hear Mr Paswan and the warm welcome accorded to him at dozens of places in the city, indicate some kind of disillusionment among the Dalits with the autocratic functioning of Mayawati-Kanshi Ram duo, say the local political pundits who are willing to jump the bandwagon before the coming Assembly elections.