New Delhi: The situation before Mayawati is very complex. She tried to work out her politics in the broader Hindu framework but realised that it is the turf of BJP-RSS and she will lose her ground there. As a last resort, to save the section influenced by her, the middle class Dalits, the BSP leader has talked about converting to Buddhism.
Ravidas and Kabir sects already identify themselves within the Hindu framework. In this narrative, Yogi Adityanath emerges as taller leader than Mayawati.
She is caught between Ravidas and Kabir sects of Dalit community, who are influenced by Hinduism, and the middle class Dalits, who are Buddhists. She wants to please the latter category. Also, since the days when Kanshi Ram was alive, Mayawati has been under pressure from a section of Dalit community to convert to Buddhism. There is a speech by her — ‘Why I did not convert to Buddhism’ — in which she said “Jiski satta hoti hai usika dharam failta hai … hum Buddhist tab honge jab kendra me power me ayenge (Those who are in power get to spread their region… We will convert to Buddhism the day we get power at the Centre).”
Narendra Modi-led government is trying to bring Buddhists under the umbrella of Hinduism — they have tried to reach out to Buddhists through various means. One such effort was Dhamma Chetana Yatra across Uttar Pradesh that was led by a Buddhist monks, and was monitored directly by the Prime Minister’s Office. The government has been reaching out to Buddhists and Mayawati wants to please this section now.
The task of consolidating Dalit vote base is very tough and she has to work very hard to achieve this. Understanding these difficulties, Mayawati has started holding rallies, followed by village-to-village movement. She has understood the dangers and is now working to revive herself.
This also shows that identity politics is entering a new phase with a new face —social politics is not enough, in fact religion is emerging as an important aspect of caste politics. BJP-RSS have set the agenda for other parties. If you have to practice politics in India, tackle religious issues also.
Mayawati is compelled to do religious-identity politics. The old discourse, based on social equations, is losing traction among Dalits as well.
— Author is social scientist and political analyst, GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad