Sources in the BJP said Mr. Raj, a prominent Dalit leader, is being considered as a candidate from a reserved seat in Uttar Pradesh.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday sought to consolidate its position among the reserved categories by forging an alliance with prominent Dalit leader Udit Raj. Welcoming Dr. Raj into the party fold, BJP president Rajnath Singh said the party has finally got a chance to walk the talk vis-à-vis its concern for the marginalised communities.
Aware that its alliance with Dr. Raj and his Indian Justice Party just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections will be perceived as an exercise for electoral gains, Mr. Singh said: “We have not changed our thinking [towards Dalits] but are now sending out the correct message. Unlike other political parties, the BJP is the only party which believes in social harmony and the word untouchability (sic) does not exist in our dictionary.”
He went on to say unlike the other political parties the BJP does not see Dalits as a “vote bank”. However, sources in the BJP said Mr. Raj is being considered as a candidate from a reserved seat in Uttar Pradesh. “He is a well known name in the State and if the BJP wants its tally in the State to cross 60, it will require a sizeable Dalit vote share. Mr. Raj wields clout among a significant number in the community,” said a party official.
In the run up to the Lok Sabha polls the BJP has been reaching out to Dalit and OBC leaders. It recently nominated Republican Party of India's president Ramdas Athawale to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra and is in the middle of negotiations with the Lok Jan Shakti Party. The party is also confident of garnering support of the marginalised communities in Bihar after its tie-up with OBC leader Upendra Kushwaha and his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP).
BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi who till recently did not refer to his caste has also begun wooing the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) by making reference to his own socio-economic background.
Dr. Raj, a former Indian Revenue Service official, said he will help the BJP take on the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. “Arvind Kejriwal [of the AAP] has been my junior in the IRS and he
seems to have a post doctoral degree in lies. If I get a chance, I will call his bluff. Some people from the Valmiki community might have shown him some support because of the party's symbol [the broom], but the AAP has done nothing to change their lot while it was in power for 49 days,” he said.