Unlike the bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats, BSP chief Mayawati has not issued any message for her core support base of Dalits on who they should vote in the by-election to Kairana parliamentary seat on May 28.
However, her sharing the stage with senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh at the swearing-in ceremony of H D Kumaraswamy in Karnataka is being seen by a section of Dalits as an indication of who she wants them to vote for.
This apart, caste violence between Dalits and Thakurs in the adjoining Saharanpur, arrest of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar in connection to that violence, the Supreme Court’s order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the arrest of Dalit youths in connection with violent agitation on April 2 could prompt Dalits to vote for the RLD candidate backed by SP and Congress in Kairana, according to local residents.
In Gorakhpur and Phulpur, BSP had openly announced support to SP candidates and BSP leaders had appealed for votes. But in the Kairana bypoll, BSP has not issued any appeal yet. Earlier, Mayawati had asked party workers to focus on preparing for the 2019 general election.
In the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency, there are nearly 2.5 lakh Dalits (mostly Jatavs, traditionally known to vote for BSP), who with nearly 5.5 lakh Muslims can prove to be formidable combination in the support of former BSP MP Tabassum Baghum, who is contesting on RLD’s symbol and is being supported by SP and Congress.
Facing a tough contest, BJP has engaged a battery of Jat and Dalit leaders for canvassing and the party hopes that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s speech, in which he raised the Muhammad Ali Jinnah portrait issue and Muzaffarnagar riots, may unite Dalits and Jats in BJP’s favour.
“Innocent youths were framed in cases of violence during Bharat bandh on April 2. They are still in jail,” said Sunil Kumar, an electrician from Dhakdehi village in Nakur assembly segment in Kairana. Nakur and Gangoh Assembly segments of Saharanpur district have the highest population of Dalits in the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency.
In May last year, Dalits and Thakurs clashed in Shabbirpur village of Saharanpur, nearly 35 km from Dhakdehi village.
In Dhakdehi, homes of Gujjars and Dalits are on separate sides of narrow road that ends at a Ravidas Temple. Gujjars are likely to support the BJP in the bypoll.
Civil engineering diploma holder Rajat Bharti alleges the administration favours upper castes. “They favoured Thakurs after violence in Shabbirpur village. Instead of helping Dalits, the BJP government is taking unnecessary steps like inclusion of Ramji in the name of Bhimrao Ambedkar.”
In Lakha village in Shamli, Mahesh Chandra, a labourer, said, “Dilution of SC/ST Act has created an apprehension that reservation system will be abolished if BJP comes to power again in 2019.” Chandra said there was no need for BSP to visit villages to seek votes for Tabassum. “If Mayawati will openly extend support to the RLD candidate, the BJP government will start inquiries against her to mount pressure. Her presence with Sonia Gandhi, Akhilesh and Ajit Singh in the swearing-in at Karnataka is sufficient for us to understand her support is with the RLD candidate.”