Valmiki-dominated Hathras seat voted for BJP since 1991, yet troll army questioned Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi
A closer look at the political past of Hathras, which has a sizable population of the Valmiki community, suggests that it is the BJP which is to be squarely blamed for the incident
The Hathras gang-rape incident – which triggered a nationwide outrage against the upper caste driven Hindutva ideology and the BJP governments, both at the Center and the state, for being indifferent towards the plight of the most vulnerable sections – is being seen as a turning point Uttar Pradesh’s political history.
Many believe that the brutal gang-rape wherein a Dalit girl was raped by Thakurs may start the disintegration of the BJP rule in India’s most crucial state electorally and unite the Opposition even as the BJP questioned Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi for speaking up about the incident and reaching out to the victim’s family.
But a closer look at the political past of Hathras, which has a sizable population of the Valmiki community, suggests that it is the BJP which is to be squarely blamed for the plight of Dalits in Harthras.
Dominated by the Valmiki community which the victim belonged to, Hathras has been a BJP stronghold since 1991. Even during the times when Mandal politics stormed political citadels in north India, the BJP managed to win the seat.
To be precise, the Hathras seat has been a Diler constituency. The father of the current BJP MP Rajbir Singh Diler, Kishan Lal Diler won the seat from 1991 till 2004. While in 2009 Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Sarika Baghel won the seat, in 2014 it was again wrested by the BJP. Notably, Diler also comes from the Valmiki community.
“Who else can be held responsible for the plight of Dalits in Hathras?” pointed out a UP watcher on condition of anonymity. Traditionally known to have an antagonistic relation with the Jatavs – a caste which Mayawati belongs to – Valmikis provided a gateway to the saffron party among Dalits.
“Mayawati’s belated and subdued response to the incident can be understood in this light,” said the UP watcher.
Social scientist and poet Professor Badrinarayan is among ones who has been watching the Dalit politics in UP from close quarters for decades. He argues, “Valmiki community was the first among Dalits to embrace Hindutva and the BJP. After drifting away from the Congress, the community chose to support the BJP and since then it has become the base vote of the saffron party.”
It was natural that with the growing influence of the BJP among non-Jatavs Dalits in UP, BSP lost its grip over them, but Hathras may be the last straw. Badrinarayan sees a “decay” in Mayawati’s politics. The question that arises is that will the incident put the Congress on the path of revival in UP?
“There are two kinds of revival – one is perceptional revival and another is grass root revival. Both are very different from each other. While with the campaigning on social media Congress may gain perceptional revival, for the grass root revival, we will have to wait and watch,” says Badrinarayan.
Saying that it is sometimes very difficult to map the political reaction of the Dalit community, Badrinarayan added, “No one can predict what’s going to happen with accuracy. Despite disenchantment, they may well again vote for the BJP”.
A socialist ideologue and the brain behind many initiatives taken by the erstwhile Akhilesh Yadav government in UP said that when it comes to voting, Thakurs and Valmiki both go for the BJP.
“The fault line seems to be widening within the Hindutva fold but saying that any other party will be able to take advantage is farfetched imagination, given the ground realities and BJP’s resources. One should not forget that the Hinduization of the Valmiki community has reached its peak already. Plus, there is always a danger of counter polarization,” said the socialist ideologue.