Karnataka boasts of 23 percent population of Dalits, but the Dalit led party BSP could win only one seat and its vote share is just 0.4 percentage. The Dalit votes got divided not only in Karnataka, but also in Tripura recently where the Dalits constitute 17 percent of the total population. The story becomes tragic when it comes to Punjab which has 35 percent Dalit population.
Across the country, the Dalits are disenfranchised as they do not have a party apparatus and party organisation to take advantage of their sheer numbers. Forget numbers, Dalits are perhaps the only community at this moment in India who can mobilise for their rights and their movement.
That is the reason a party structure is very important and equally important is the movement that backs that party structure. It has been said that the Dalits on their own cannot come to power and this is far from the truth. The electoral history of India has it that the Dalits on their own have won seats. The welcome sign from the Karnataka is the election of Mahesh Anna, who gave up his good job to serve the movement and he won. Anna has tremendous power to mobilise the people on the ground, and particularly young people.
A man like Mahesh Anna, educated, savvy, and committed has a potential to become an influential figure in politics if the community mobilises politically around such people. There are many committed people like Mahesh Anna all over the country and their commitment to the movement is life time.
Dalits have no reasons to celebrate whichever party wins in Karnataka as ultimately they are kept aside from the power. The state of Karnataka was itself a glaring example of such a treatment to the senior most Congress politician, Mallikarjuna Kharge, who was kept away from the post of the Chief Ministership when the Congress party won the elections last time.
The formula that is coming into being has been always there, clear and visible. A strong national party of Dalits (like BSP, to take an example) can ally with the regional parties through strong negotiation to become a decisive player in the state as well as national politics. Saheb Kanshiram had always sought such alliances instead of running after the big centrist parties. He allied with SP in UP. In J and K, he allied with National Conference and so on. But in order to do that, the national party must be in position to speak in terms of numbers and loyalty of its vote bank.
It is not far in the future to see a rising national level party in India. The caste equations favour the Dalits throughout India if they stand united and mobilise with one political structure. As it appears, the leadership of the BSP is failing miserably to gain power and advantage out of such a huge mobilisation.
Mangesh Dahiwale is Director, Thinking Eye Studio Pvt Ltd, and Chairman, Manuski.