A few days ago, Mayawati created ripples when she referred to the Bhim Army, a newly formed Dalit rights organisation, as a product of the BJP. Interpretations of this statement have since come thick and fast. What exactly did she mean? Was this an uncharacteristically amateur statement by a seasoned politician? To answer this question we need a little analysis.
In the BJP’s “Virat Hindu Rashtra” formulation, Bahujan politics seems to be the biggest hurdle because caste inequality is the biggest weakness of Hinduism. To perpetuate the idea of a Hindu Rashtra—which Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath is himself supportive of—can never succeed without getting Dalits on the same side as Hindus.
It’s a mission that has not gone very far.
Even though the BJP claims it got a chunk of Dalit votes in the 2014 and 2017 elections, the BSP despite its resounding defeats did retain a large section of its core voter base. This is because a large portion of the BSP’s support base are Ambedkarites.
So as long as a strong force like the BSP is there in Uttar Pradesh it is not easy for the BJP/RSS to achieve their motive. Decimating the BSP’s support base is thus in their interest. In this context, there is a possibility that the BJP is using the freshly minted Bhim Army as a tool in one or both of two ways.
First, by linking the BSP top leadership with groups like the Bhim Army, which doesn’t have any proper organisation or structure, it would be very easy to implicate a relatively disciplined party like the BSP in fake cases and muzzle its voice. It would be easier to target BSP leaders and use excessive administrative aggression over them.
By highlighting the Bhim Army’s emergence, the BJP and the sections of the media that support it want to create another centre of power among the Dalits.
Second, by highlighting the Bhim Army’s emergence, the BJP and the sections of the media that support it want to create another centre of power among the Dalits. It is a deliberate attempt to create the image that a vacuum has been created in the Dalit movement. This would help the Yogi Adityanath government to divert attention from its administrative failure and shift the discussion from the Saharanpur atrocity to a political debate centring on BSP vs. Bhim Army. This would also lead to a division of consolidated Dalits into two blocks of BSP and Bhim Army supporters. Further, it would be easier to finish a new Bhim army rather than an old and strong organisation like BSP.
Thus these two possibilities suggest a possible conspiracy against the Bahujan Samaj Party and Mayawati understands it well. Thus, when she says that the Bhim Army is a product of the BJP, her words are laden with meaning.
The fact, however, is that the BSP does not necessarily view the Bhim Army as an adversary. Even though the Bhim Army is getting much support from the Dalit community, this does not automatically translate into less allegiance to an established organisation like the BSP.
In addition, the massive support that the Bhim Army has garnered provides an opportunity to the BSP to reach the youth and channelise this energy to re-emerge as a power block in 2019.