Karnataka

Analysis: How people’s representatives choose to skirt around caste stigma, not confront it

Many MLAs, MPs say they do not violate caste norms given the nature of the electoral equation

While the incident of the residents of Gollarahatti at Pemmanahalli not allowing Dalit MP A. Narayanaswamy to enter the village on Monday has sent shockwaves across the State, it has also exposed prevailing caste discrimination that even people’s representatives are not immune to, said many MLAs and MPs The Hindu spoke to.

“What Mr. Narayanaswamy went through is not restricted to Gollarahattis. Many have faced untouchability practised by several castes, but they hardly speak openly about it, thanks to the dynamics of electoral politics where non-Dalit votes matter even in a reserved constituency,” said a former MLA from a reserved constituency.

Balancing act

A former Minister from Chitradurga district avoided visiting the Gollarahattis in his constituency even during campaigning and depended on his supporters for door-to-door visits. “However, the practice is not limited to Gollarahattis. Many MLAs have no entry into several temples in their constituencies,” said a political activist associated with him. Most often, MLAs and MPs accept this rather than confronting it head on, since votes of non-Dalits matter in the number game, he added.

 

“Dalit votes get divided among candidates. Whoever gets more non-Dalit votes wins. The contestants in reserved constituencies have to be acceptable to upper castes,” said a member in the current Assembly. Further, he added that political parties, while finalising the candidates for reserved constituencies, strongly consider their ‘rapport with upper castes’.

The incident of the MP being prevented from entering a village has been condemned by many current and former MLAs. JD(S) State president H.K. Kumaraswamy, who represents Sakleshpur in the Assembly, said, “Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa should take the MP to that village and convince the people against such practices.”

‘Lodge complaint’

Former Lok Sabha member P. Kodandaramaiah, who belongs to the Golla community, said a complaint should be registered against those who stopped the MP and legal course of action should be initiated.

Speaking to The Hindu, the retired IPS officer said it was a shameful incident. “I urge the government to book a case against the people and take legal action,” he said.

Mr. Kodandaramaiah, who was elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 from Chitradurga, said during the election campaign he noticed that a senior Minister, who belonged to a Scheduled Caste, would refuse to enter Gollarahattis. “When I asked him why he was not entering Gollarahattis, he said people of the community would feel bad,” he recalled.

“The educated people of the community should devote their time to spread awareness,” he added.

(With additional inputs by Kumar Buradikatti in Kalaburagi)

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Printable version | Mar 26, 2020 1:34:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/how-peoples-representatives-choose-to-skirt-around-caste-stigma-not-confront-it/article29453400.ece

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