A leaf out of Ambedkar’s book

Dalit – Bahujan politics, which is perceived as having no road map, could learn from Ambedkar’s political experiments

The rapid decline of the Bahujan Samaj party over the years has led some to believe that Dalit politics lacks a suitable road map . Rebuilding the Bahujan movement will be difficult if the political agenda and electoral strategies are not improvised. In such a crisis, the Dalit-Bahujan leadership could learn from B.R. Ambedkar’s political experiments.

Ambedkar’s social movement and political thoughts are heralded for making Indian society sensitive towards the ideas of social justice and democracy. Ambedkar was keen to find a dignified place for the ‘Untouchables ‘ in modern institutions, including legislative bodies . He appealed to the ruling classes to recognise the ‘Untouchables ‘ as a new social and political minority, and demanded special safeguards for them from the state . He thought community based political representation would liberate the ‘Untouchables ‘ from the hegemony of the social elites and help them bring their issues to the mainstream. But Ambedkar was not interested in Framing the Dalits as a political force for the Dalits alone ; he expected them to unify vulnerable caste groups, religious minorities and the deprived working classes and bring about revolutionary political change .

Forming political parties

Ambedkar’s first political party, the independent labour party (ILP) , was committed to the welfare of the working classes . The socially marginalised castes , especially the ‘Untouchables ‘ , formed a significant part of modern industry, especially in Bombay . Ambedkar noticed that parties claiming to represent the interests of the working class did not pay attention to the concerns of ‘ untouchable’ labour . He reprimanded the socialist -communist leadership for betraying the trust of lower caste workers . The ILP , he proposed , would highlight the class -caste relationship and contest coercive “Brahmanism & Capitalism” together.

In 1942, Ambedkar established his second political party , the Scheduled Federation (SCF) , in Bombay . This was when hectic deliberations were taking place between the Congress, the Muslim League and the representatives of religious minorities over India’s constitution. In new constitutions in the world then, different religious communities and groups were granted political safeguards and cultural rights according to their numerical strength and historical location. Ambedkar wanted to establish the Depressed Castes as one of the prime actors in the nation building process . The SCF demanded that the ruling classes cherish the values of socially diverse groups and integrate the different aspirations of marginalised people in their plans for a new India . Further , the SCF meant to promote the interest of the diverse ‘Untouchable ‘ castes on a single national platform. Ambedkar introduced the SCF as a rival of the Congress and a harsh critic of M.K. Gandhi’s leadership. The Congress was depicted as an association of powerful caste groups and rich capitalists .