Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution

Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution

Product ID: 11893

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Author: Sudha Pai
Publisher: Sage Publications
Year: 2002
Language: English
Pages: 265
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0761996273


The recent emergence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a Dalit-based party, has been one of the most significant developments in the political and social landscape of Uttar Pradesh. This book examines the emergence, ideology and programme, mobilization strategies, electoral progress and political significance of the BSP against the backdrop of a strong wave of Dalit assertion in UP.

Many had hailed it as a revolutionary movement whose goal was to break the caste system and introduce social transformation. However, the BSP has failed to displace upper caste forces and, in several instances, has actually made compromises with them. Its leadership is today faced with a difficult decision: is it a movement with an agenda of radical social change, or a political party driven solely by the compulsions of achieving power?

Based upon extensive fieldwork in western UP, government reports and interviews with Dalit leaders, this study, while highlighting the BSP’s considerable achievement, explores the reasons for the party’s failure to harness the forces of Dalit assertion in UP.

Sudha Pai examines what the emergence of the BSP has meant for the vast majority of subaltern Dalits, and whether it has contributed to the social deepening of Indian democracy, or merely helped in the upward mobility of the elite sections of the Dalits.

The author provides a sympathetic yet critical look at a party once eulogized as a social movement that would bring about social transformation, but which later turned into an opportunistic political party interested only in capturing power. In the process, the author also draws attention to the compulsions and dilemmas that a Dalit party, in comparison to mainstream parties, faces when adopting the electoral route. Sudha Pai concludes that the main reason why the BSP has not succeeded in bringing about a social transformation is that it is not a movement but a product of Indian democracy. Hence, it is primarily a statist party which aims to break the hold of the brahminical elite on the state and then use its power to uplift the Dalits.

Yet another important aspect of the study is its investigation into Dalit assertion at the grassroots level witnessed in UP in recent years, and its relationship with the BSP. The author argues that without a shift towards a more egalitarian society based on empowerment at the grassroots level, Dalit movements anywhere in the country will find it difficult to realize their goals.

As perhaps the only scholarly book on the BSP, this book will be of interest to sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and all those engaged in Dalit studies.


List of Tables

List of Abbreviation

Series Editors’ Note

Preface and Acknowledgements

Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished
Democratic Agenda

Chapter 1. Dalit Consciousness and Movements in the Colonial Period:
Socio-political roots of the BSP

Chapter 2 Emergence, Leadership and Organisation:
Understanding the BSP

Chapter 3 Social Justice as Ideology:
Theory and Praxis

Chapter 4 Dalit Assertion through electoral Politics:
Mobilisational Strategies and Performance of the BSP

Chapter 5 New Forms of Dalit Assertion at the Grassroots:
The BSP in Meerut District