The 2024 General Elections Pushed Deprived Scheduled Castes Towards Political Exclusion in Haryana; How?

The percentage of the highest voter turnout shows that Dalits have been awakening for their political rights, but the results pushed the Deprived Scheduled Castes towards political exclusion in Haryana.
The 2024 General Elections Pushed Deprived Scheduled Castes Towards Political Exclusion in Haryana; How?

Indian democracy provides chances to all socio-economic categories to send their representatives to the Lok Sabha, as we have an indirect democracy. The results of the general election of 2024 are full of radical realignment in the politics of India in various dimensions.

Particularly in the context of Dalit politics, as Mallikarjun Kharge is leading the Indian National Congress (INC), which is the oldest party in India.

His leadership again shows that Dalits are able to do anything (as this time Congress got 99 seats in the Lok Sabha).

Being a scholar of Dalit issues, my concern is the representation of Dalits at the micro-level and macro-level in the context of Haryana.

According to Aadhaar Statistics, the Haryana population in 2022/2023 is 27,388,008, compared to the last census in 2011, which was 25,353,081. In this population, one-fifth belong to the Scheduled Castes (SC). But in Haryana, SCs have been indulged in a conflict on the question of reservation. At the micro-level, there are two major castes in SC. But these two castes have a huge gap in the share of jobs and education. That is why, earlier, the SC quota in Haryana was segregated into two groups, Block A and Block B, by Bhajan Lal's government.

The socio-economic and educational representations of the castes served as the basis for this division. But it was again combined into a single SC category in 2006 by the Government of Haryana. The integration of reservation quotas became the cause of aggression of Valmikis and other castes of DSCs.

This integration was done during the time of the Congress government, and at that time Bhupinder Singh Hooda was the Chief Minister of Haryana. In the 2019 general election, BJP promised the Valmikis that they would segregate again the SC quotas into two categories. This promise attracted the Valmikis towards BJP. In the 2019 elections, BJP won 10 out of 10 seats in Haryana. One reason for this huge victory was BJP's promise to segregate the SC quotas into two categories.

Subsequently, in 2020, the Haryana Assembly enacted a measure to divide the state's higher education institutions' 20% reservation quota for SCs into two halves, with one portion designated for the new Deprived Scheduled Castes (DSC) category. Thirty-six communities are included in the DSC category: Sapera, Valmiki (Balmiki), Bazigar, Sansi, Deha, Dhanak, etc. The government argued that the percentage of DSC’s share is just 4.7%, 4.14%, and 6.27% in Group A, Group B, and Group C services, respectively. The populace of DSC cannot tolerate this representation. This segregation was welcomed by the DSC, and they organized different public rallies and yatras with the banner of the DSC, and they [the DSCs] have been demanding from the government to extend the segregation of quotas into jobs as well. I was also sure that the government would take it seriously and continue to appease this group. The DSC were also believing in the policies of BJP, and they had hope that BJP would surely take care of their share in education, jobs, and political representations.

Ajay Prashad argued in his seminal work "Untouchable Freedom: A Social History of a Dalit Community" that Balmikis are the most backward people among the Dalits, who have been indulging in sanitation and cleanliness work for centuries. The bulk of the Balmiki community today labors as sweepers hired by the municipalities of the cities on minimum wage. For their emancipation, Balmikis moved towards Hinduism in the 1980s, particularly after the emergence of the BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which promised to erect a temple of Valmiki (the sage of the Balmikis) within the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi. The youth of Balmikis were participating in militant Hindu politics, and they believed that their poverty was the result of Muslims, Jatavs, and Chamars.

As the DSC’s major caste is Balmiki, in the general election of 2024, both main alliances, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a coalition of 28 parties called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) led by the main opposition INC, ignored the DSC’s candidacy as a Member of Parliament (MP) on the reserved seats in Haryana, as two seats have been reserved for the SC: Ambala and Sirsa.

Both declared their candidates from the particular caste (Chamar) from SC: the BJP’s Banto Kataria and Congress’s Varun Chaudhary from Ambala, the BJP’s Dr. Ashok Tanwar and Congress’s Kumari Selja from Sirsa. But one prominent regional political party, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), gave importance to the DSC and from both reserved seats declared its candidates from DSC, particularly Balmikis (Valmikis): from Ambala to Gurpreet Singh, who belongs to the Sikh religion and particularly the Balmiki caste, and another from Sirsa to Sandeep Lot Valmiki, who also belongs to DSC.

After the declaration of the candidates from both reserved seats in Haryana, I (Author of this article) discussed this issue with Joginder Singh, a scholar of philosophy at Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, who belongs to the Balmiki caste. He said that the Balmikis tried to get Lok Sabha tickets from BJP and Congress, but they did not succeed, which shows that national parties have been ignoring the DSC since the election of 2019.

The 2024 General Elections Pushed Deprived Scheduled Castes Towards Political Exclusion in Haryana; How?
Haryana: Assessing the Deprived Scheduled Castes' Sentiments Towards BJP and Congress in the 2024 Indian Elections

In the 2019 election, both national parties, i.e., the BJP and Congress candidates, belonged to one particular caste [Chamar] from SC. From Ambala, the BJP’s candidate was Mr. Rattan Lal Kataria, while the Congress candidate was Kumari Selja. The BJP won Ambala’s seat with a margin of 3,42,345 votes, which was a huge margin. Another BJP candidate from Sirsa was Sunita Duggal, while the Congress candidate was Dr. Ashok Tanwar. The BJP won Sirsa by a margin of 3,09,918 votes (May 1, 2024, The Indian Express).

However, in this election, Congress staged a remarkable comeback in Haryana, winning five out of ten Lok Sabha seats, but my concern is the reserved seats—Sirsa and Ambala.

Both seats were won by Congress (particular caste candidates). Kumari Selja won from Sirsa by a margin of 2,68,497 votes; she polled 7,33,823. While Dr. Ashok Tanwar polled 465,326 votes and got second place, the candidate from INLD, Sandeep Lot Valmiki, polled 92,453 votes and was able to get third place in this hot seat. In Ambala, Varun Chudhry polled over 6,63,657 votes and defeated BJP’s Banto Kataria, who polled over 6,14,621 votes, by a margin of over 49,000 votes. INLD’s candidate Gurpreet Singh got only 8,986 votes and got fourth place. It was very unbelievable that INLD candidates lost their security deposits on all seats they contested.

Haryana recorded a voting turnout of around 65% in this Lok Sabha election, while Sirsa had a turnout of 69% and Ambala recorded 66.9%, which had the highest voter turnout among the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies (Times of India, May 26, 2024).

The percentage of the highest voter turnout shows that Dalits have been awakening for their political rights, but the results of the general election of 2024 pushed Deprived Scheduled Castes towards political exclusion in Haryana. DSC has a population of approximately 20-22 lakh in Haryana. They will remain as an orphan child till the next general election. Who will be raising their issues in Lok Sabha? Who will represent them in Lok Sabha? Who will fight for their rights and development? These questions I leave for the readers and policymakers.

-The Author Dr. Krishan Kumar is a scholar based in Haryana specializing in Dalits and Marginalized Studies, with a focus on social inclusive policies. He is currently engaged in research related to caste issues.

The 2024 General Elections Pushed Deprived Scheduled Castes Towards Political Exclusion in Haryana; How?
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