Elections to Maharashtra and Haryana will be held on 21st of October in less than 10 days. Alliances have been frozen, candidates announced and campaign started. However, due to the festive season, campaign is a bit lackluster. It is expected to pick up from Oct. 14 when PM Modi begins his rallies.

The Dalits and minorities are in good numbers in both the states and could influence the election outcome in many seats. They together account for 27% of the population in Haryana and 24% in Maharashtra. 17 out of 90 seats are reserved for SC in Haryana while 28 in Maharashtra. Haryana has the 5th largest proportion of SCs in India. Haryana also has 5% Sikh population, while Maharashtra has 6% Buddhist population.

Facts about Dalits / Muslims in Maharashtra Facts about Dalits / Muslims in Haryana
·         Majority of SCs live in rural areas (61%), higher than state average of 55%.

 

·         Latur has the highest SC population (19.4%), followed by Bhandara (17.8%).

 

·         There are four districts where Muslim population is about 20%, or moreAkola, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Mumbai suburban.

 

·         15 assembly constituencies are dominated by Muslims.

·         Majority of SCs reside in rural areas. (>70%)

 

·         Fatehabad (27.4%) has the highest proportion of SCs in the state followed Sirsa (26.6%).

 

·         The Mewat district has a population of nearly 1 million with over 70% Muslim population.

 

·         3 assembly constituencies are dominated by Muslims.

 

Despite, accounting for close to one-third of population in both the states, there isn’t much chatter about Dalit and Muslim votes like in northern states of UP and Bihar. The outgoing assembly in Maharashtra had only 10 Muslim MLAs, one-third of its proportional representation while Haryana hadonly 3, half of its population size. These communities don’t have significant share in political power.

During the first decade following Independence of India from the British, Maharashtra was the hub of dalit movement under the leadership of Babasaheb Ambedkar. He formed the Republican Party of India, but in 1956 his sudden death, left the party and the movement orphaned. RPI failed to make an impact over the voters and was dubbed as a “Neo-Buddhist party”. The Congress formed an alliance with RPI to seek the support of Dalits. Till 2009 the dalitssupported Congress in the name of secularism. However, fed up with the exploitation and failure of Congress in giving a voice to their demands / issues the dalits shifted to BJP-Sena.

Source: www.indiavotes.com

The Ramdas Athawale faction of RPI broke ranks with Congress-NCP and hopped onto NDA bandwagon before 2012 municipal elections. He coined the slogan ‘Bhim Shakti, Shiv Shakti’. BJP successfully formed a coalition of Dalits and non-Marathas to check the political clout of the Maratha elite who supported the Congress-NCP and helped it to be in power for 15 years. The Dalits joined the NDA to acquire a respectable position in the power structure. The strength of RPI has reduced considerably and today it is actually dependent on the BJP-Sena to get MPs/MLAs elected.

Within the community a section felt the need to create an umbrella coalition of deprived sections of the society, and thus Prakash Ambedkar and Asaddudin Owaisi, came together for the Lok Sabha elections 2019 coining the slogan Bheem-Meem to consolidate the Dalit and Muslims vote bank. The alliance made a decent debut winning one seat and recording around 8% vote share. However, the alliance has since been called off. VBA and AIMIM are contesting separately state elections separately. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 87% Muslims voted for UPA while 53% Dalits for NDA.

Muslim and Dalit Support for parties in Maharashtra

 

Source: CSDS Reports

In Haryana, Dalits have traditionally voted for the Congress. BSP was able to garner a giant share of votes in 2009 when Mayawati was at her peak, after becoming CM of nearby state UP in 2007. In 2014 state elections, support of Dera Sachcha Sauda (Baba Ram Rahim) helped BJP make inroads in the vote bank. Dera has 6 million followers, majority of whom are Dalits.

In 2019 general elections, more than half of the Dalits voted for BJP, in line with the national trend, weakening of Congress and the BSP. There were fears that Dera followers upset with arrest of Ram Rahim would shun BJP, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. In a bid to further consolidate the Dalit vote bank in its favour, party has made MP Rattan Lal Kataria and party’s Dalit face in state, a union minister in Modi’s cabinet.

Jats and Dalits the to largest blocks in Haryana have been at loggerheads with each other and share a history of conflict. In August 2005, 1500-2000 Jats allegedly burnt down houses of 55-60 Dalits at Gohana. In May 2010, Jats allegedly burnt alive a disabled Dalit girl and her septuagenarian father. While Jats have dominated the political scene in the state until 2014, Dalits have not had a fair share in the power pie in the state. Resultantly, the two have supported different parties in last few elections as shown in table below. For the first time in 2019 general elections majority of the two groups have voted for the same party, the BJP.

  2005 VS 2009 VS 2014 VS 2019 LS
Dalit 65% (INC) 56% (BSP) 41% (INC) 51% (BJP)
Jat 38% (INLD) 42% (INC) 54% (INLD) 52% (BJP)

Source: CSDS Reports

The Muslims in Haryana have stayed with the Congress as the regional parties like INLD and HVP have had an alliance with BJP in the past. Though, a section in the state feels exploited by Congress, they don’t have an option like AIMIM in the state yet. BJP hopes a section of voters especially women, vote for it due to tne triple talaq ban.

To sum up, Dalits and Muslims which have been reduced to passive players in state politics, are trying hard in these elections to occupy a respectable position in mainstream politics of the state.

Image Credit: Live Mint