Parties go out of the way to woo Dalits

UP Assembly polls: SP fields 75 candidates from the community

Parties go out of the way to woo Dalits

With a little more than 21% of the total electorate in a position to influence the outcome in as many as 200 Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Dalits are the most sought after community in the elections in the state.

Although the BSP claims almost complete dominance over Dalits, other major political players, including the Congress, SP and BJP, were also making every effort to make a dent in the community and garner their support.

Interestingly, it was the SP, that had won 58 of the 84 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) in the 2012 Assembly polls, followed by the BSP, which could win only 15 reserved seats.

The BJP had emerged victorious in three reserved Assembly constituencies, while the Congress and others had captured nine seats.

The SP, which is in the fray in alliance with the Congress, has been sweating hard to maintain its hold over the reserved constituencies this time also and has fielded around 75 Dalit candidates.

In the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, however, the BJP had won all the 17 seats reserved for the SC in the state.

Emboldened by its performance in the reserved seats in the previous general elections, the saffron party is not leaving any stone unturned to woo the community this time.

The party had sponsored a statewide ‘Dhamma Chetna Yatra’ by Buddhist monks in a bid to attract the Dalit voters. The BJP also had the support of Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India.

BJP Dalit leaders Udit Raj, Ram Shankar Katheria and others have been aggressively campaigning for seats where members of their community have a sizable presence.

BSP supremo Mayawati had catapulted to power in the state in the 2007 Assembly polls, riding on the ‘social engineering’ formula that included the Dalit-Brahmin combination. The formula, however, failed to work for the party in 2012.

Political observers differed on whether the Dalits would support the BSP en bloc in the this year’s polls.

“There will be a division in the Dalit votes... the preference of various sub-castes within the SC may be for the candidates of their community,” said Prof Dinesh Kumar, a former faculty at the Lucknow University.

Dalit writer Prof Kali Charan Snehi, however, thinks otherwise. “Dalits are still solidly behind Mayawati,” Snehi told DH.

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