Millennium Post

Politics of appeasement

Politics of appeasement
As Dalit politics takes centre stage, the opposition parties which had all the intentions to unite themselves but lacked common ground have finally found a unified agenda. As a counter to BJP's Hindutva agenda, the opposition can now play the Dalit card. Dalit outfits have shown unprecedented aggression in the recent all-India strike to protest against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by a Supreme Court order. The effects of the all-India strike were felt in several states as the strike threw normal life out of gear in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Large-scale violence during the strike resulted in the death of innocent people. The opposition leaders, who were on the lookout for issues to censure the BJP government at the Centre and in the states, jumped at the opportunity and began advocating a Dalit agenda. The most vociferous of the opposition leaders who are raising the Dalit issues are Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi party leader and former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejaswi Prasad. However, the Dalit issue is relevant to most states and it can become a major rallying point in the opposition's drive to unite itself. The Karnataka Assembly elections are scheduled for May 12 and the Lingayat community has asked its people to vote for the Congress. Earlier, the Siddaramaiah government had given the community the status of a separate religion. Many, however, saw this as an attempt by the government to appease the Dalit community. As the opposition raises the issue of Dalit welfare, the Centre is expected to outdo the opposition in championing the Dalit welfare agenda. So far, the government has vehemently maintained that it would not do away with the reservations for the SC/STs and other communities. The Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that his government is working to make the SC/ST Act more effective. So, in the coming months, if we see that both the government and the opposition parties are trying to woo the Dalit voters, no one should be surprised. But there are regional contenders too who would like to have a share of the Dalit votes. The only Dalit political party, Bahujan Samaj Party, is confined to Uttar Pradesh. Outside UP, BSP does not have any remarkable appeal. However, there are organisations in every state that represent the Dalit community. If the opposition wants to unite all the Dalit organisations before the 2019 general elections so that the Dalit votes are not divided, they will have to start their work early and give the emerging Dalit front a more formal shape. The manner in which the Dalit protesters have resorted to unrest and violence during its April 2 all-India strike, it appears that the Dalits are angry with the BJP-led Central government. Also, the BJP-ruled states had witnessed protests and violence on a larger scale. The opposition wants to cash in on the Dalit anger. As expected, BJP has begun telling the voters that the efforts by some opposition leaders to forge a grand alliance of opposition parties to give BJP a one-to-one fight on each of the Lok Sabha seats is an attempt in desperation. BJP has maintained that the opposition is scared that the Modi wave will sweep the elections once again. This fear is tying the opposition parties together. Besides making fun of the opposition's unification drive, the BJP will also tell the voters that the opposition's unity is a farce as there is no organic leadership structure and it has too many leaders who are housing a Prime Ministerial ambition. Apart from these routine messages, both the ruling and the opposition camps would try to find new ideas and issues to impress the voters. Since Dalits are one of the biggest chunks of votes, they are expected to attract the attention of all parties. BJP is expected to keep development and Hindutva as its major poll plank while the opposition is expected to rally around the Dalit cause. In order to counter the opposition's Dalit agenda, the government may announce a slew of welfare schemes for the Dalits. In all likelihood, Dalit issues are going to dominate the national politics till the 2019 elections. It can well kick in a policy for the appeasement of Dalits in the country.

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