Can the SC/ST/OBC members of Parliament and ministers from these communities change the social, economic and political lot of the Dalit and backward classes? Will the problems of the Dalits be solved if Dalit politicians are appointed ministers? What were Ajay Tamta, Krishna Raj, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Ramdas Athawale, who were inducted into the union council of ministers on July 5, doing when issues concerning the Dalits, including the suicide of Rohit Vemula, were raging in the country? Why did they not raise their voice when some influential people talked about ending reservations? Why did no Dalit MP or minister as much as utter a word of protest? Then, how can we assume that Parliament has Dalit representation? Going by the numbers, one can conclude that Dalits have adequate representation in Parliament. It is also a fact that the ruling BJP has the highest number of Dalit MPs. But then, shouldn’t the incidents of atrocities on Dalits have come down since the NDA assumed power at the Centre? But this has not happened. Would it be unfair to presume that Dalit presence in the council of ministers does not have any positive impact on the social status of the Dalits? Yes, of course, the interests of the MPs concerned are served.
Meghwal was declared the best parliamentarian. Let someone ask him what his achievements are apart from riding a bicycle from his home to the Parliament building. Is that enough to fetch him the tag of best parliamentarian? What did he do for society? It is regrettable that he and other Dalit MPs maintain a stoic silence on Dalit issues because they are more concerned with protecting and furthering their personal interests. And this is also true of the states.
In his last days, Ambedkar had said that he was pained by the betrayal of the educated people. In the light of Ambedkar’s observation, we can readily conclude that the pathetic condition of the Dalit community is the result of the educated members or the so-called intellectuals of the community being committed only to their own interests. Babasaheb had issued a very pertinent warning in this respect. He said, “In every country, the intellectual class is the most influential class. This is the class which can foresee, advise and lead. In no country, do the mass of the people live the life of intelligent thoughts and actions. There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destination of the country depends upon its intellectual class. If the intellectual class is honest and independent, it can be trusted to take the initiative and give a proper lead when a crisis arises. It is true that the intellect itself is no virtue. It is only the means and the use of the means depends upon the ends which an intellectual person pursues. An intellectual man can be a good man but he may easily be a rogue. Similarly, an intellectual class may be a band of high-souled persons ready to help, ready to emancipate erring humanity, or it may easily be a gang of crooks or a body of narrow clique from which it draws its support.”
It is a known fact that only a few castes had joined Dr Ambedkar’s struggle on the ground. At the same time, there is a sizeable number of non-Dalits who are influenced by the Ambedkar’s thoughts on socio-economic issues, but they are status quoists. The basic problem today is that to secure their political positions, most of the Dalit politicians pay lip service to Ambedkar and latch on to one or the other political parties. None of them has any interest in solving the problems and issues raised by Ambedkar. The dominant political parties have their fingers on the pulse of Dalit politicians. They offer lollipops to them. The Dalit politicians keep sucking the lollipops while the political parties enjoy real power. The Dalit voters who support these politicians taking them to be one among them, feel cheated and let down, but there is little they can do.
It would be wrong to blame the BJP or other non-Dalit political parties for this state of affairs. Their objective is to grab power and they will adopt any means to achieve it. But what is painful is that Dalits are still living in an illusory world. I personally feel that with such Dalit politicians – who claim to be followers of Ambedkar – the master key to power will never come into the hands of Dalits.
It is clear that BJP’s motive behind inducting five Dalit ministers in the union ministry is to grab Dalit votes. The party is trying to poach the Dalit voters of Mayawati. Uttar Pradesh is going to the polls soon and the inclusion of Dalits in the ministry is just another attempt to change the anti-Dalit image of the BJP.