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'Dalits, Tribals should have separate electorate', says forum for Scheduled Castes' rights

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DELHI/BHOPAL: Asserting that people who belong to un-reserved categories hold excessive influence in voting pattern in the reserved Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies, the National Dalit Mahapanchayat (NDM) has raised demand of 'separate electorate' for the Dalit and Tribal communities.

Under separate electorates, just the reserved category voters could vote for the candidate of their category. Addressing a press conference, the NDM chief Indresh Gajbhiye said that the forum wants separate electorates. Gajbhiye spoke about Poona Pact 1932 between Dr BR Ambedkar and Gandhi, which ended seperate electorate in the legislative assemblies. He said that time  has come for the separate electorate system to be brought in. 

Also, he said that despite reservation of seats for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) in the country, these communities have remained largely unrepresented and their issues never taken up by the elected reserved category representatives. He said that the reason is that just 40 per cent of the electorate are from reserved categories even in these reserved seats, while 60 per cent belong to un-reserved categories.

“As many reserved category candidates contest against each other in the polls and the reserved category votes are divided and the candidate supported by the remaining voters [un reserved or general category]wins. This elected candidate is then normally under influence of the general categories and fails to take up the issues of the category to which the candidate comes from".

The Delhi-based forum has said that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes need genuine representation and for them it is a big issue that due to mixed electorate, the communities don't get due representation, because the remaining voters even on these selected seats hold too much influence. 

Gajbhiye said that an all-India Dalit mahapanchayat will be held on November 20 on this issue and subsequently, a representation with demands will be submitted to the President of India and the PM. It will be held in Delhi. Later, in December, state level Dalit panchayats and demonstrations will be held and representations submitted to the governors.

Separate electorates are often sought by minority communities if they feel it would otherwise be difficult for them to get fair representation in the system or because they can't win because of their small numbers. Under this system, seats are reserved and only members of the community votes vote for the candidate of a reserved seat for that community.

The forum says that SC/STs didn't achieve fair representation all these eyears and their issues are ignored over decades,” There are 132 seats in Lok Sabha and around 850 in state assemblies, which are reserved for SC/STs. Gajbhiye said it was due to Congress leaders' pressure following indefinite fast by Mahatma Gandhi in 1932 that Ambedkar was forced to agree to the Poona Pact.

“Dr BR Ambedkar felt that the MLAs/MPs of depressed classes should get elected only by the votes of these communities and work freely and fearlessly for their betterment. But this provision was done away with under Poona Pact and in the past 70 years, we have seen the representatives of the depressed classes unable to work for real uplift of the communities". [Photograph is just for representational purpose]