Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale’s latest plans to woo Dalits gives indications that his party RPI (A), and possibly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), may be plotting to eat into the Dalit vote bank of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
Athawale said, “Reservation in government jobs alone is not benefiting Dalits. It is necessary to ensure that jobs are reserved in the private sector too.” Athawale’s party Republican Party of India (Athawale) is a breakaway political party of the Republican Party of India that has roots in B.R. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation.
There are signals that the party will fight the elections in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the BJP and the move comes across as an attempt to inject the idea that the larger alliance led by the BJP will work to ensure Dalits get reservations in private sector jobs.
Mayawati enjoys a massive support of the Dalit community. She has been at the forefront of the Dalit political and social empowerment movements for over two decades now and cutting down her Dalit vote bank will be crucial if the BJP wants to derail her campaign to Lucknow’s seat of power.
Athawale is pushing to take the reservations forward from the current 49.9 per cent to 75 per cent including the economically backward classes as well. In the past, reservations in education and jobs have opened a pandora’s box and led to countrywide violence and unrest.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government had proposed the idea impose quota in private jobs sector. UPA government had tinkered with the idea but no breakthrough was seen. It took over half of this government’s tenure to discuss quota for Dalits in private sectors. It is not clear, however, if the Dalit vote will shift with only an idea or a promise for reservation.