BJP’s Dalit Leaders Express Dissatisfaction After Selection of Cabinet Ministers

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Dalit leaders within the BJP are expressing dissatisfaction with the representation of lower caste leaders in the BJP government, specifically from Karnataka. This dissent comes after the BJP announced its final cabinet and council of ministers.

Story: Nitya Kaimal

The four MPs from Karnataka selected by the Modi government for a position in the Union Cabinet all hail from the dominant upper castes- Lingayats, Vokkaligas, and Brahmins. This selection has been taken as a sign of favouritism towards upper caste leaders and voters, not only by opposition parties but also by lower caste leaders within the BJP itself.

The disappointed Dalit leaders expressed their concern to the Indian Express, saying “We were expecting Dalit leaders from Karnataka — seven-time MP Ramesh Jigajinagi and former DCM Govind Karjol, who is a first-time MP, to get ministerial berths in the Union cabinet, but they got nothing.” The leaders also pointed out the importance of publicly showing support for the lower castes, since the BJP has never crossed the majority in the Karnataka assembly elections even when it was the largest party in the state in 2008 and 2018. It is also important to note that in the recent Lok Sabha elections, the BJP lost the seats of  Gulbarga (SC), Chamarajanagar (SC), Raichur (ST) and Bellary (ST) to Congress, which were previously won by the BJP, thus clearly showing a downfall in lower caste support for the central party.

The two Vokkaligas in the Union Council of Ministers are Shobha Karandlaje of the BJP who has been allotted the post of a Minister of State, and H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), who holds a Cabinet seat. Additionally, V Somanna, a Lingayat, has been assigned a MoS position, while Brahmin Pralhad Joshi has been selected once more for a Cabinet role.  including  Brahmin Nirmala Sitharaman of Karnataka, a member of the Rajya Sabha, the BJP now has five ministers from Karnataka in the Union Cabinet, all members of dominant castes.
Those notably missing from Karnataka are Ramesh Jigajinagi, who is a seven-time BJP MP and won the SC-reserved seat of Bijapur, and Govind Karjol, former deputy CM and winner of the SC-reserved Chitradurga seat.

Also read: Why did Dalits not vote for BJP ?

“The Union Cabinet is proof that your (BJP’s) concern for Dalits is fake. Not a single Dalit or backward community leader from the state has been appointed in this Cabinet,” stated Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah on June 10. The announcement of the choice of ministers has led to several attacks by the Congress on the lack of caste representation, this time supported by leaders within the BJP itself. Despite the growing fear among lower caste voters about the possibility of altering the constitution, the Dalit leaders from the BJP worked hard to garner support and votes, only to receive exclusionary treatment from their own party.

Voters and leaders cannot help but draw comparisons between the treatment of lower castes by the BJP and the Congress. The Congress claims to be taking care of its lower caste leaders, and it is evident in Mallikarjun Kharge’s rise to the presidency of the party as a member of the SC community, as well as the large representation in the current Karnataka Government. Dr G Parameshwara, Dr HC Mahadevappa, KH Muniyappa, Priyank Kharge, RB Timmapur, and Shivaraj Thangadagi are the six Dalit ministers in the current Congress administration. Three Scheduled Tribe ministers—Satish Jarkiholi, KN Rajanna, and B Nagendra—served in the Siddaramaiah cabinet until their recent resignations. In contrast, the only SC and ST ministers in the previous BJP government were Govind Karjol, Prabhu Chavan, and B Sriramulu.

Also read: Why BJP upset over the victory of the Dalit leader in Ayodhya?

SC/ST citizens account for almost 25% of the state’s population with 30% of votes from this community going to the BJP. If the party does not address the concerns of its members and provide for more representation within the organisation, we could see a drastic decline in this vote share by the time the next elections come around.

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