Dalit Influence Reshapes MP's Political Landscape

Dalit Influence Reshapes MP's Political Landscape

As 2023 Assembly elections loom, Congress and BJP are leaving no stone unturned to court Dalit voters.

Staff ReporterUpdated: Thursday, October 19, 2023, 05:59 AM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): The balance of power in the state is increasingly swayed by Dalits and tribals who constitute 21% and 16% population respectively. The two groups have emerged as formidable influencers in state's electoral equations. Out of 230 Assembly seats in state, 82 are reserved for Dalits and tribals.

As 2023 Assembly elections loom, Congress and BJP are leaving no stone unturned to court Dalit voters. On August 12, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for Sant Shiromani Ravidas Ji Memorial in Badtuma village near Sagar. The project costs over Rs 100 crore.

To foster social acceptance and harmony, BJP organised Samrasata Yatras in 45 districts. The 18-day journeys, which commenced on July 25 and ended in Sagar on August 12, served as a means to connect with SC voters.

"Yatras were part of a larger effort to raise awareness about Saint Shiromani Shri Ravidas Ji's contributions to unity of India. BJP's focus on such initiatives underscores its commitment to bridging gap between different sections of society," said BJP SC Morcha National President Lal Singh Arya.

However, addressing a rally in Sagar on August 22, national Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that the construction of Ravidas temple was merely a political manoeuvre.

According to estimates of Scheduled Caste Development Department based on 2011 census, MP is home to 1.13 crore SCs spread in 90 sub-castes. Among them, Jatavs and Ahirwars are 53 lakh. Mehars account for 8.19 lakh, Koli for 6.56 lakh, Balmik for 3.65 lakh, Basor for 3.15 lakh and Khatiks for 1.61 lakh. Most Mehars, Khatiks, Basors and Balmiks support BJP and are seeking greater representation within the party.

Among Dalits, Jatavs and Ahirwars have been loyal to Congress since Independence. While Ahirwars remain committed to Congress, Jatavs have tilted to Bahujan Samaj Party. In absence of capable BSP candidate, they opt for Congress.

"Not only Jatavs, other SC sub-castes are also supporting Congress as there is a fear among SCs that BJP is trying to manipulate Constitution against reserved classes," Senior Congress leader Sajjan Singh Verma said.

The BJP, on the other hand, has been actively making inroads among Khatiks who are mostly workers, labourers and some land-owning individuals. Since 2013, BJP has been focusing on Jatav and Ahirwar communities with leaders like Lal Singh Arya, Pradip Lariya, Prachilal Jatav, Kamlesh Jatav, Prabhuram Chaudhary working ardently to gain their support. BJP aims to enlist more Jatav candidates for upcoming election.

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