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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Madhesi parties woo Dalits with myriad offers

Madhesi parties woo Dalits with myriad offers
KATHMANDU, Oct 26: In an effort to woo Dalit voters, the Madhesi parties have proposed various populist programs for them in their election manifestos. 

Upendra Yadav-led Madhesi People´s Right Forum-Nepal (MPRF-N) has floated an agenda of reservations for Dalits in all areas of the government and non-government sectors. “Our party would take a lead to ensure the representation of Dalits in all state mechanisms on the basis of their population. Students from the Dalit community should get free education up to university level,” said MPRF-N in its election manifesto. 

The manifesto further says that issues concerning the Dalit community should be incorporated in the educational curriculum. The party further envisages the formation of a ´National Dalit Commission´ to resolve all issues related to that community. “Inter-caste marriages should be promoted,” it further states.

Rajendra Mahato-led Sadbhawana Party (SP) has said that it would take the initiative to draft a bill of ´special rights´ for the Dalit community to ensure their ´equal and special´ representation in all state mechanisms. As per the party´s manifesto, discrimination based on caste and creed is an ´inhuman act´. The party manifesto says that practicing untouchability is a ´crime against humanity´. 

Similarly, the manifesto of the Mahanth Thakur-led Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) envisages the formation of a separate ´Dalit Economic Development Project´, a ´Dalit Education Project´, and a ´Dalit Employment Project´. The party has said that the educated unemployed from the Dalit community should be given incentives. 

However, the central committee of the party is manned by the Tarai upper castes, with the chairman, vice-chairmen, general secretaries and spokesperson all belonging to the Madhesi upper castes.

Similarly, TMDP has proposed 25 Dalit candidates from among its 130 candidates under the proportional representation (PR) electoral system. 

Likewise, the Sharat Singh Bhandari-led National Madhes Socialist Party (NMSP) has said that their party would take initiatives to declare the sacred figures of the Dalits --King Salhesh, Dina Bhadri and Bhantha-- national icons. The party envisages the formation of an effective ´National Dalit Commission´ and free education and health services for the Dalit community. 

The party manifesto further envisages the formation of separate benches for Dalits in the law courts of Nepal. 

However, analysts believe that the Madhesi parties have floated the populist programs merely to win Dalit votes. “Madhesi parties had proposed attractive plans aimed at the Dalits during previous elections as well, but they did not fulfill their promises. 

They have failed to provide political justice to the Dalit community as they appoint Dalit representatives merely as ceremonial leaders in their parties. Dalit leaders don´t have any say anywhere in the party´s entire decision making process,” said political analyst Chandra Kishor. 

He further said that for the sake of economic and cultural democracy the parties should ensure proper representation of the Dalit community. “The political parties even offer short term incentives for Dalit voters in a bid to woo them. But this time round their tactics will not work.” 

For instance, in a breach of the electoral code of conduct, the TMDP candidate for constituency-1 in Saptari, Jay Prakash Thakur, distributed sarees to women and Dalit voters on October 19. Similarly, Madhesi People´s Right Forum (Republican) Chairman Raj Kishore Yadav, who is contesting from constituency-6 in Siraha, distributed sewing machines, pressure cookers and cycles to women and Dalit voters. The Election Commission has sought clarifications from them. 

Likewise, sources have confirmed that SP Vice-chairman Sanjay Sah, who is contesting from constituency-4 of Dhanusha district, has distributed motorbikes and offered financial assistance for voters in the Dalit community to construct porticos at their houses. 

NMSP Chairman Sharat Singh Bhandari has admitted that candidates of both Madhesi and non-Madhesi parties offer short term initiatives to Dalit voters. “The candidates often offer handsome incentives to the Dalit community to woo them and they get readily taken in,” said Bhandari.

“Candidates in Tarai offer money and materials for building homes and this is a normal practice for taking them into confidence,” added Bhandari. 

Dalit rights activist Bhola Paswan said that both Madhesi and non-Madhesi parties take the Dalits merely as a vote bank. “The political parties had proposed ambitious plans for the Dalit community in previous elections too. Proposing big plans is natural for the parties,” claimed Paswan. 

He added that the parties have proposed programs for the Dalit community just to win their trust and fool them. 

Litterateur and cultural expert Dhirendra Premarshi has said that the Madhesi parties have always floated ambititous programs to impress Dalit voters. "It is easer to envisage those programs than to implement them," said Premarshi. 

"The tendency of distributing dhotis, Sarees, pressure cookers, cycles, sewing machines and other short term incentives is the worst method of influencing voters. They are easily influenced as most of them are facing economic hardship and are illiterate. Those who try to woo voters this way can never be true friends of society," added Premarshi 

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