Uttar Pradesh BJP parliamentarian Yashwant Singh accused his own government at the Centre of doing nothing in four years for Dalits, as he ratcheted up growing dissent among the scheduled castes after an alleged dilution of a law protecting them.
He said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Dalit MPs like him in the ruling party are victims of atrocities against scheduled castes and it has become difficult for them to answer to the community.
“When I got elected, I met you to request for the passage of the bill to provide reservation in promotion. Several organisations of the community make such pleas to us day and night. But your government has not done a single work for the direct benefit of about 300 million Dalits,” the MP for Nagina constituency wrote.
Singh, a qualified physician from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, said in the letter: “Being a Dalit my capabilities have not been put to use. I only became an MP because of reservation.”
The first-time parliamentarian is the fourth scheduled caste MP from India’s most populous state to red-flag the government on Dalits in less than a week — after Savitri Bai Phule, Chhotelal and Ashok Dohre, representing Bahraich, Roberstganj and Etawah constituencies respectively.
UP has 17 Lok Sabha seats reserved for scheduled castes (SC) and the BJP won all of them in the 2014 parliamentary elections. SCs constitute over 22% of the state’s population.
Singh’s letter signals a growing discomfort among Dalit MPs of the BJP, disturbed with a series of events, that latest being a Supreme Court order that allegedly had whittled down safeguards guaranteed by the SC/ST atrocities act to the marginalised communities. The top court order triggered Dalit nationwide protests, which were marred by violence that led to the death of about a dozen people.
The MPs fear that marginalisation of Dalits could affect the BJP’s prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Singh alleged that courts were chipping away at the rights of Dalits because the community has no representation in the judiciary. “70% of India’s wealth is with 1% of its population, which enjoys patronage of the government,” he wrote.
According to party leaders, the views expressed by the Dalit MPs could mean something else. “Some of them are probably looking for new avenues, fearing that they will be denied tickets in 2019,” said a BJP leader associated with party affairs in UP.
Another leader, who also refused to be identified, said Phule, Dohare and Singh don’t have a BJP background and could be laying the ground to return to “our rival parties”.
A Dalit MP of the BJP, who doesn’t want to be named, said Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati set the cat among the pigeons by supporting arch-rival Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party in the bypolls to the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in UP. “The two makes a formidable opposition in UP,” the parliamentarian said.
The two parties have hinted that they might forge an alliance in 2019, considered a worrying prospect for Dalit MPs of the BJP.
The BSP contested 403 seats in the 2017 assembly elections and polled 1.93 crore votes, while the Samajwadi Party fielded candidates in 311 seats and got 1.90 crore votes. The BJP’s tally was 3.44 crore votes in 384 seats.