Representation simply means acting and representing opinion/interest on behalf of the people. In the Indian context, Representation is divided into two categories: one, leadership from a reserved constituency and two, leadership from an unreserved constituency. Here, we would like to discuss the leadership emerging from the reserved constituencies by applying two models of Representation: trustee model and delegate model.
Dalit leaders seem to be a failure from the perspective of both these models. A trustee is a person who acts on behalf of others, using his/her superior knowledge, better education or greater experience, but Dalit leaders hardly use their own experience or learning. If we look at the Dalit leadership in terms of delegate model, Dalit leaders seldom represent the voice of their constituents in the decision-making process. Leaders as delegates, since they belong to reserved constituencies, are bound to have a frequent exchange of voice with their constituents and articulate their demands to be manifest in the policy. We are also ready to recognize the conscience of our leaders who should rationally use it in discussion and debate in the legislature.
Instead of using conscience and representing the issues of the constituents, Dalit leaders are going against Babasaheb Ambedkar who warned them not to be the repository of the malignant power sponsored by the Brahmin and Bania leadership. Misusing their political power without any sense of responsibility, they bargain with upper caste voters and remain accountable to them.
Babasaheb also emphasized on the normative aspect of power in a society, which indicates the values involved in the exercise of power. Let us examine the Dalit leadership keeping in views the words of Babasaheb and the models of Representation. Laxmipeta village falls under the Rajam constituency (Andhra Pradesh) which is reserved for the Scheduled Castes. Dalit leader of Rajam constituency was an obliged partner of the dominant communities of the district and hence didn’t help the Dalits before the massacre, because he didn’t want to incur the wrath of the dominant community, even though the issue was in favor of Dalit victims.
On the other hand, the dominant community used their malignant political power in favor of their community interest, though it was not genuine interest. One thing seems to be clear that Dalit leaders take Dalit votes for granted in the reserved constituency. They want to bargain with Non-SC voters and remain accountable to only them. But the leadership emerging from the consciousness formed on the basis of words left by our ancestors like Jotiba Phule, Birsa Munda and Babasaheb Ambedkar works for the betterment of the people in general and Dalit-Bahujan in particular.
Behen Mayawati is ahead as a leader of the masses who had brought about structural changes that engendered a qualitative improvement in the lives of Dalits, having come to power in UP. During her regime, she distributed 52,379 acres of land to the Dalit and most backward landless people in a special drive. Further, about 1, 52,000 got possession of land in which 1, 20,000 acres of land was distributed. About 20,000 more Dalits benefited when 15,000 irregular-land nominations were regularized in their names. Under Ambedkar village scheme, she provided Drinking Water, Electricity, Housing, School, Primary Health Centre, toilets in the village selected on the basis of the concentration of Dalit population.
Through these policies, she not only brought about changes in the lives of Dalit but also put an end to the dependency of Dalit for such service on Upper Castes. Looking at the leadership of Mayawati, Dalits in UP became conscious of their self-respect and rights. Which manifested in how the Dalits were able to force the landlords to increase their wages with the help of the police and sometimes they retaliated in whatever manner they could.
From the above discussion, Behenji (the title was given to Mayavati by the community) seems to have used her conscience and values in her execution of power the way Babasaheb envisaged. Finally, Dalit leaders who are a repository of humiliation in the form of not being able to use their conscience and values should give up politics. We need leaders who are able to arouse a sense of self-respect and consciousness.
Jai Bhim, Jai Birsa, Jai Phule!
Tharakam, B (2012):”Laximpeta: Deadly Combination of Caste and Political Power”, Economic and Political Weekly.vol no- 47
Kumar, Vivek (2003): “Politics of change”, Economic and Political Weekly, vol no38, issue no.37,sept 13.
Guru, Gopal (2007): “Concept of political power”, in edited book ‘Ambedkar in retrospect’, Rawat Publications.
Rajanikanta Gochhayat is a Ph.D Scholar in Indian Institute Of Dalit Studies, New Delhi.