A state which sends the highest number of MPs (80) to the Lok Sabha and has given nine of the 14 Prime Ministers India has had, it is no wonder that Uttar Pradesh is the most politically significant state in India and is seen as the gateway to Delhi when it comes to elections. Political battles in Uttar Pradesh have always been interesting and decisive, and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be no different. Contrary to the Narendra Modi wave that led to BJP winning 71 of the 80 seats in UP in the 2014 general elections, and followed it up with a maasive win in the assembly elections, 2019 may be a different ball game.
The alliance between rival-turned-friends Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party has already made BJP bite dust in the bypolls in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s stronghold of Gorakhpur, Phulpur, and BJP bastions Kairana and Noorpur earlier this year. The BSP strongly feels that Dalits, seen as its hardcore votebank, will vote in favour of Mayawati as they are faced with atrocities under the BJP rule. Speaking exclusively to FinancialExpress.com, BSP’s national spokesperson Sudhindra Bhadoria said that Dalits are with Mayawati as they have seen the real face of Congress and BJP. He also said that Dalits want to see Mayawati become the Prime Minister because everybody under her leadership feels safe, secure and benefit from the schemes. As all parties try to woo the Dalits who comprise 16% of the country’s total population, Bhadoria delves into where the BSP stands in the present scenario where efforts are being made give final shape to a Grand Alliance of anti-BJP parties.
Here are edited excerpts from Sudhindra Bhadoria’s exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online:
Dalits have been at the centre of politics in India for long but continue to remain socially ostracised. Why this? Who is responsible for the plight of Dalits?
Historically speaking, Dalits have been the most exploited section of Indian society. We can go back thousands of years, they have been part of our social organisation where they have been at the bottom. This exploitation, subjugation and discrimination even continuing even after 70 years of independence. The first herculean effort to break the shackles of this kind of exploitation was made by Babasaheb Ambedkar. He organised Dalits politically and Constitution gave them guarantees so they could liberate themselves from these shackles. Prior to that, there have been many people who have tried to fight for a casteless, no-exploitation society starting from Gautam Buddha to Savitribai Phule… but after Babasaheb, we saw that there was a period of null till Kanshi Ram, Mayawati. Both of them through their political efforts rejuvenate the ideas and philosophy of Ambedkar and organised them politically through the BSP.
So the BSP has been the mainstream instrument for their liberation. It is because all other political parties used Dalits for votes but never did anything to get them into important positions or running the system. For instance, Ambedkar was defeated twice in parliamentary elections by Congress itself. Babasaheb was forced to resign on the issue of Hindu code bill and political mobilisation against him was done by RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and then Jana Sangh. Subsequently, we also saw that when Babasaheb was not there, Babu Jagjivan Ram could have become the prime minister in 1980, but the Congress didn’t support him. It is a historical fact that Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, then President of India, had dissolved the Lok Sabha and Jagjivan Ram couldn’t become PM of this country. But when in 1984-85, the BSP was formed, the BSP became the mainstream party for Dalits. Parties like Congress take their (Dalits) name but do not believe in giving them respect and honour to run the country. The caste system in this country can be broken through political empowerment and political empowerment. Babasaheb tried it and BSP is now trying under the leadership of Mayawati.
Where do you see Dalits after 5 years and their role in Indian politics?
Dalits are the most strong-willed people and they have historically faced the biggest brunt of society. This nation stands on their shoulders. They are creators of India, the best that we see. I have a feeling that for the future, under the leadership of Mayawati and BSP who is carrying forward the vision of BR Ambedkar, Dalits will work. We hope that one day we will fulfil Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dreams and Dalits dream of living with equality with all fraternities.
All political parties are trying to woo Dalits ahead of general elections. Do you believe Dalits will stick with the BSP?
The BJP never got the vote bank of Dalits, it never got even in 2014. The BSP is the 3rd largest vote share party after BJP and Congress. In UP alone, the BSP got 20% votes, it was basically the vote of the Dalits. The SP also got about 20% votes. So, to say that BJP got Dalit votes is wrong. This time, after the incidents of brutalisation in Una, Saharanpur, Rohit Vemula, the lynching of minorities and Dalits both…. they (Dalits) feel like sticking with the Bahujan Samaj Party. And they will vote in favour of the BSP in very big numbers along with other sections of society.
How do you envisage the BSP’s political role in national politics?
In UP and the rest of the country, the BSP is emerging as strong political force. We are trying hard in assembly elections also. We have already registered our presence in Karnataka. And we hope to do very well. We have grown slowly and gradually. We have legislators also Bihar, Odisha. We will be doing very well this time.
What is the party’s view on the growing clamour for Mayawati as first Dalit Prime Minister of India? Do you feel all the opposition parties will reach a consensus on Mayawati’s candidature?
As a BSP worker, Dalits, minorities and women will rejoice if Mayawati becomes the Prime Minister of this country. This will be done only after the parliamentary elections. There is definitely an effort and many opposition leaders like HD Kumaraswamy, Ajit Jogi from Chhattisgarh, Om Prakash Chautala from Haryana, have raised this and there is a popular demand from many corners and from many sections of Indian society. I think this will a great day in history for our democracy, for our Constitution if a Dalit like Mayawatiji — she has been CM of UP four times, has successfully run the government and developed UP — becomes the PM. She has run a coalition government as well as one of her own party. So, given the kind of experience which is required to run the country like India, she has run the largest state that has a population of 22 crore. She has given respect to all castes. And of course, more particularly Dalit, women, Muslim minorities and upper caste poor will be secure under her. I have a feeling this will definitely be a concern of people who will be electing the Prime Minister and support Mayawati.
A lot of parties, Chautala, Jogi, Kumaraswamy and many others, and also leaders of main parties have been saying that Behenji should become PM. I am quite confident that other parties also have this in mind that the PM should have certain experience in running the system. Prime ministership is not a toy that can be handed over to anybody, it is a serious responsibility and only a serious leader like Mayawati can handle it. She has experience and managing a party that has grown from scratch to this position.
What is your view on Chandrasekhar Azad’s reservations about BSP and on backing Mayawati’s PM candidature?
I don’t give much significance to his (Azad’s) statement. He is a free citizen and may have an opinion. Everyone in UP felt safe, secure and benefited from the development that took place under Behenji’s rule. The GDP (of UP) was 9% at that time and the fruits of development reached all. Behenji started schemes like Savitri Bai Phule Balika Shiksha Madad Yojnagirls, established dozens of universities, made the Yamuna Expressway which is an example and I challenge anybody to show an expressway like that in India. Despite having achieved so much, when some persons raise doubts… I think there is some ulterior motive of political parties who are using people as a ploy to question Behenji. She is a leader who is above questioning on any issue of giving respectability to Dalits, OBC, women, Muslims and poor. Behenji doesn’t need anybody’s certificate. She is a genuine follower of Babasaheb and associate of Kanshi Ram who will take this battle or movement for equality to a logical conclusion.
We are going to take support from 130 crore citizens of the country. We want everybody to support us but not from those who either have reservations about us or question Mayawati’s leadership.
Will Grand Alliance take shape and what will be its future? What is BSP’s stand on the leadership of Congres president Rahul Gandhi?
Rahul Gandhi is president of his own party. It is for him to decide what Congress wants to do. And as far as alliances are concerned, we have them in Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Haryana. When the time comes, when dates are declared (of Lok Sabha polls) and results of the assembly elections, Mayawati will decide. All such people who believe in 4 things – Constitution of India not just in words but in deed, who believe in Democracy, who believe in secularism and equality of all — all such forces will definitely reach out to Mayawati and take a decision so that we can save the Constitution and beat communalism and fulfil the dreams of all Indians. What will happen in future is very difficult to predict. But we would like an alliance of people who have faith in Babasaheb and Constitution of India.
Chandrababu Naidu just said that Congress is the main opposition party and it has to take more responsibility than others. Your view on this.
As far as Chandrababu Naidu is concerned, Akhilesh Yadav has made a statement where he said that the Congress is not playing the kind of role it should play. We don’t have to react to everybody’s remark and we have made our party position very clear.
What is the current status of BSP-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh?
We are working for assembly elections at this moment. We have shown in the bypolls by supporting the SP candidates in Phulpur, Gorakhpur where Congress was not part of an alliance. We defeated both Modi, CM and deputy CM. And finally in Kairana and Noorpur. Having said that, we must say we showed magnanimity, we supported them and didn’t ask for anything. And after the assembly polls are over, all parties interested in an alliance with the BSP will sit together and defeat communal forces.
What is the BSP’s stand on the Ayodhya issue?
The matter is in the Supreme Court. It is a country where rule of law exists. Whatever has to be done, has to be done through the rule of law. Nobody should take the law in their own hand.