Karnataka: Dalits get a raw deal in BJP, feel leaders

Some Dalits in BJP compare their party’s overtures to Dalits with that of Congress.
BJP flag used for representational purpose only.
BJP flag used for representational purpose only.Photo| PTI

BENGALURU: All parties, including BJP, fight for Dalit votes. But despite supporting the saffron party, many Dalits are asking as to why they are getting a raw deal in the party organisation.

There is discontent among BJP’s Dalit leaders, who worked hard to get votes in Karnataka, despite an onslaught from Congress. But Congress claims to be taking care of its Dalit leaders, the prime example being Mallikarjun Khage, AICC president. Dalit leaders recall that there was panic among Dalit voters ahead of the Lok Sabha polls when BJP ex-MP Ananthkumar Hegde said the party could change the Constitution if it returns to power.

Dalit leaders said, “SCs and STs account for 24-25% of the state’s population, which translates to around 1.5 crore. Around 30% backed BJP. But some of them ask what has the community got despite 40-45 lakh Dalits voting for BJP.”

Some Dalits in BJP compare their party’s overtures to Dalits with that of Congress. They point out that the present Congress government has six Dalit ministers -- Dr G Parameshwara, Dr HC Mahadevappa, KH Muniyappa, Priyank Kharge, RB Timmapur and Shivaraj Thangadagi. Until recently, the Siddaramaiah ministry had three Scheduled Tribe ministers in Satish Jarkiholi, KN Rajanna and B Nagendra, who quit recently. But during the previous BJP government, only Govind Karjol and Prabhu Chavan, who are SCs, and B Sriramulu, an ST, were ministers.

They said, “We were expecting Dalit leaders from Karnataka -- seven-time MP Ramesh Jigajinagi and former DCM Govind Karjol, who is a first-time MP -- to get ministerial berths in the Union cabinet, but they got nothing.” They said they cannot understand the state party unit’s obsession with upper castes -- Lingayats and Vokkaligas.

The party president is a Lingayat, the Assembly Opposition leader is a Vokkaliga, and the post of LoP in the Council, which was till now occupied by a backward class, is now going to CT Ravi, a Vokkaliga. “Till the party convinces Dalits that it is not obsessed with upper castes, how will it reach the magic mark of 113 seats in Karnataka on its own,” they asked.

BJP has not managed to cross the halfway mark in any Assembly election, even when it was the single-largest party in 2008 and 2018.

Some Dalit leaders pointed out that in the Lok Sabha election, BJP lost Gulbarga (SC), Chamarajanagar (SC), Raichur (ST) and Bellary (ST) to Congress. “This proves that we are not able to convince Dalit voters. Remember, the same voters had elected BJP in 2019,” they added.

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