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  • Context (TH): Dalit politics in India evolved with the rise of independent Dalit political parties, like the Republican Party of India (RPI), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and other regional political parties.

Factors Responsible for the Rise of Dalit Politics

  • The socio-political profile of Dalit communities has changed over time. It was because of the following factors:
    • Influence of democracy
    • The percolation of education at the grassroots
    • State-led affirmative actions
    • Rising developmental desires

Role of Independent Dalit Political Parties

  • Dalit empowerment
  • Cultivation of assertive consciousness among Dalits
  • Rise of several leaders and cadres in the Dalit communities

Reasons for the decline

  • Most independent Dalit political parties are gradually weakened with each passing day. The reasons for the decline include:
    • Individual ambitions and a growing impatience of Dalit leaders to gain political power.
    • Failure to provide sufficient political space to a politically aspirant section of Dalit communities.
    • Unable to respond to the changing aspirations and identity quest by a section of Dalit communities.
    • Growth of a dynastic political culture.
    • Failure to develop an effective political programme.
    • Working in a conventional mode of politics
    • Fragmentation within party
    • Social welfare schemes launched by the major political parties attract Dalit people and leaders to their party.

History of Dalit Politics

  • After the Independence, despite constitutional guarantees of equality and justice:
    • The social discrimination and violence against the Dalits continued.
    • Dalit women were dishonoured and abused.
    • Dalits faced collective atrocities.
    • Legal mechanisms proved inadequate to stop the economic and social oppression of Dalits.
  • Against this background, in the 1970s, the first-generation Dalit graduates began to assert themselves from various platforms.
  • They were fighting against the perpetual caste-based inequalities.
  • They demanded the effective implementation of reservations and other such policies of social justice.

Dalit Panthers

  • It was a militant organisation of the Dalit youth formed in Maharashtra in 1972.
  • Their activities mostly centred around fighting increasing atrocities on Dalits in various parts of the State.
  • The larger ideological agenda was to destroy the caste system and to build an organisation of all oppressed sections.
  • In the post-emergency period, Dalit Panthers got involved in electoral compromises.
  • It also underwent many splits, which led to its decline.
  • Organisations like the Backward and Minority Communities’ Employees Federation (BAMCEF) took over this space.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)

  • In 1978, the Backward and Minority Classes Employees Federation (BAMCEF) was formed.
  • It was a trade union of government employees.
  • It took a strong position in favour of political power to Bahujan – the SC, ST, OBC and minorities.
  • Out of this, the subsequent Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti and later the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) emerged under the leadership of Kanshi Ram.
  • The BSP began as a small party supported largely by Dalit voters in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • But in 1989 and the 1991 elections, it achieved a breakthrough in Uttar Pradesh.
  • This was the first time in independent India that a political party supported mainly by Dalit voters had achieved this kind of political success.
  • Under Kanshi Ram’s leadership, the BSP was envisaged as an organisation based on pragmatic politics.
  • It derived confidence from the fact that the Bahujan (SC, ST, OBC and religious minorities) constituted the majority of the population and were a formidable political force on the strength of their numbers.
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