WITH BJP and Congress vigorously wooing Dalits before the 2017 UP elections, BSP chief Mayawati has renewed her focus on the party’s core support base. She has directed party nominees and prospective candidates to visit Dalit bastis and also asked leaders to revive BAMCEF — a shadow organisation of Dalit government employees.
The move is seen as a counter to BJP and Congress’ efforts to reach out to the community, especially by sharing food with them and visiting Dalit areas. The BJP and Congress have often accused Mayawati of selling Dalit votes and not visiting any Dalit’s house.
At Sunday’s closed-door meeting of senior party coordinators and office-bearers from across the state, Mayawati reportedly said candidates should not take Dalit votes for granted. A leader who was part of the meeting, said: “She asked prospective candidates to visit Dalit bastis along with local party workers and members of Bahujan Volunteer Force (who manage security at BSP events). They should not think that they have got Dalit votes like dowry once they have been given tickets.”
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The decision to revive BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation), an organisation founded by Kanshi Ram before he launched BSP, is a move to stay connected with educated Dalits. BAMCEF was considered the backbone of BSP in the party’s early days, as most financial and human resources came through this organisation of Dalit employees. Mayawati herself got ion touch with Kanshi Ram at a BAMCEF function.
“BAMCEF has been almost defunct for the last one decade. Mayawati wants BAMCEF units to be set up at district and division levels,” said a former BAMCEF district president from Kanpur division, who was part of Sunday’s meeting.
Mayawati has also asked party leaders to work for committees set up to attract various castes in the 85 reserved seats of the state, which have the largest Dalit population and where BSP had often failed to perform owing to lack of support from non-Dalit groups. Out of the 85 reserved constituencies, BSP had won only 15 in 2012 Assembly elections. While SP had won 58, Congress followed with four, BJP three, RLD three and independents two.
Mayawati’s call comes after BJP president Amit Shah had food with Dalits in Varanasi district last month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also been invoking Dalit icon B R Ambedkar in his speeches and had visited Ambedkar Mahasabha in Lucknow in January. A few former BSP leaders had also joined BJP. Moreover, BJP has 17 Dalit MPs in UP.