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Jatavs firmly behind Mayawati, but will other Dalits follow?

With a Dalit population of over 25%, Agra is one of the 17 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh reserved for scheduled castes.

, TNN|
Apr 07, 2019, 11.08 AM IST
AFP photo
(This story originally appeared in on Apr 07, 2019)
It’s election time and residents of Agra’s Jatav-dominated Budh Vihar Colony are, once again, hoping their dream of Mayawati becoming Prime Minister will be fulfilled this time. With a Dalit population of over 25%, Agra is one of the 17 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh reserved for scheduled castes.

According to Bharat Singh, 40, Mayawati is synonymous with the Dalit movement. “The Ambedkar Udyan in Lucknow and Gautam Budh Nagar are examples of how she worked hard and improved the image of the community.” The Jatavs would never fall into the trap of BJP’s nationalism, and the saffron party won’t be able to win elections by raising the Balakot air strike, he adds.

Congress, which was the party of their choice before BSP came into prominence, does not exist for them either. “Congress leaders come to us only during elections. Unlike Mayawati, they (Congress leaders) haven’t done anything for the community,” says Mahesh Jatav.


About 50km from the Budh Vihar Colony, another Dalit dominated village Punera, however, has a different story to tell. Most villagers are Pasis or Balmikis, the two other subcastes among Dalits.

“Lok Sabha election results will decide our next PM and Modi is the right candidate. Why should we vote for SP-BSP when none of the leaders can become PM? They can’t win seats anywhere else in the country and are tying up with different parties,” says former pradhan Ashok Kumar Balmiki.

From the early days of the Dalit movement in the 90s when BSP assumed office with the slogan, ‘Tilak taraju aur talwar, inko maaro joote char’, the community has come a long way. No single party can now consider the entire Dalit community its vote bank. The rise of outfits like the Bhim Army has fired Dalit aspirations.

Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP could cash in on this resentment and win a large chunk of the non-Jatav votes. The UP assembly elections in 2017, too, saw a similar voting pattern. This time, however, it is likely that Jatavs will transfer their votes on Mayawati’s call since BSP has a tie-up with SP. However, the same cannot be said about other sub-castes.

Vijay Singh Balmiki of Punera says the SP-BSP alliance will face a tough challenge. “The Yadavs will never vote for BSP candidates as the maximum number of cases booked under the SC/ ST (anti-atrocities) Act have been filed against them. They would prefer Modi. Previous governments have done nothing for us. Modi has got toilets, roads, water and power,” says the 29-year-old.

But Dharmendra Soni, a Jatav from Mantola, says he will vote only for BSP. “Our vote and rights are safe only in the hands of Mayawati.”
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