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A bewildering twist: Why did Mayawati refuse to embrace Buddhism?

Despite having been buried in an otherwise obscure corner of one of its numerous inside pages, a single column Times of India news story caught the attention of its readers on April 16: 'Mayawati won’t embrace Buddhism now'

The headline looked unequivocal enough. And perhaps credible too for the simple reason that the BSP supremo, who is counting on the support of Brahmin voters in the ensuing Assembly elections in 2017, is in no position to accept publicly the 22 vows that an entrant into Buddhism is supposed to take.

 A bewildering twist: Why did Mayawati refuse to embrace Buddhism?

File image of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati. PTI

Do you know what these vows are?

Here are just the first five of those supposedly sacrosanct vows that were administered even to Dr BR Ambedkar at the time of his conversion into Buddhism.
1. I shall have no faith in Bramha, Vishnu and Mahesh; nor shall I worship them.
2. I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnation of God; nor shall I worship them.
3. I shall have no faith in Gauri, Ganapati and other Gods and Goddesses of Hindus; nor shall I worship them.
4. I do not believe in incarnation of God.
5. I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.

These apart, the 8th and the 17th of the 22 vows further say:
I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins.

I renounce Hinduism which is harmful for humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality and adopt Buddhism as my religion.

The rest of the vows talk about truthfulness, honesty, human values and the well-known noble eight-fold path. It’s significant that after being converted to Buddhism himself, Ambedkar, in turn, administered the same vows to 600,000 of his Dalit supporters at a great, grand function at Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur on 14 October, 1956. This event was historic in the sense that it was the largest religious conversion the world had ever seen.

Rohit Vemula’s mother, Radhika, and brother Naga Chaitanya took the same 22 vows while embracing Buddhism at a function that was held to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar in Mumbai earlier last week this year.

Now, you know why Mayawati finds herself caught in a Catch-22 position.

If she embraces Buddhism, she loses non-Dalit Hindu votes — particularly those belonging to Brahmins.

And if she doesn’t, she would sadly find herself drifting away from the larger than life Dalit icon – Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

But a practical politician that she has developed into over the years, Mayawati is aware of the three fundamental factors in politics of votes: First, more than 90 percent of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are willfully continuing as Hindus even in face of oppression at the hands of upper castes and other backward communities. Second, she might lose her Dalit identity once she becomes a Buddhist. And third, ironically enough, the Dalits owe their existence to Manuwad and Vedic Hinduism. No Manuwad, no Daliticism. Yes, as simple as that.

And who can deny the fact that Dalits are a major power bloc in Indian politics these days? At a time when the need of the hour for her is to go in for inclusive and extensive politics in place of an exclusive Dalit vote bank, nobody should be surprised to notice that even the slogans have changed in UP : “Haathi nahi Ganesh hai, Bramha Vishnu Mahesh hai” (It’s not just an elephant; this BSP symbol, in fact, represents the four major Hindu Gods).

Gone are the days when BSP’s predecessor, the erstwhile DS4, had coined an extremely abusive slogan as their war-cry against caste Hindus: “Tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro jootey chaar” (Tilak represented Brahmins, tarazu Banias and talwar Rajputs in their dictionary).

Indeed, the changes in sloganeering had worked wonderfully well for the BSP. In the 2007 Assembly election, Mayawati’s party could win 206 of the total 403 seats, thanks to the additional support by caste Hindus, particularly Brahmins. Her party had got just 98 seats when she leaned heavily only on her exclusive Dalit vote bank in 2002. Caste Hindus had moved away again from her in 2012, with the result that the BSP was reduced to just 80 seats. By now, she has learnt her lessons. That’s why as far as her politics is concerned, Hinduism has taken precedence over Buddhism — and pure pragmatism over everything else with elections just a year away.

But in a somewhat bewildering turn of events, it’s the BJP — and not Mayawati — that is increasingly leaning towards Ambedkar and his politics of reservation. Remember Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech delivered at Vigyan Bhavan on 21 March this year: “I am Dr Ambedkar’s bhakt,”, he had said adding that the reservation policy for Dalits and tribals wouldn’t be diluted even if Ambedkar himself were to come back and demand its revocation.

“Reservation is their right and nobody can snatch it from them”, he thundered.

Needless to say that BJP needs Dalits even as BSP is leaving no stone unturned to see to it that caste Hindus, particularly Brahmins jump on to its bandwagon in Uttar Pradesh.

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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2016 10:26:54 IST

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