Dalit voices in BJP speak out

Party starts enquiry into complaints over its handling of community issues

April 07, 2018 10:53 pm | Updated 10:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have spoken about the commitment to Dalit welfare.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have spoken about the commitment to Dalit welfare.

Yashwant Singh has become the fourth Dalit MP from the BJP to express unhappiness with the handling of Dalit issues and welfare by the party.

Before the MP for Nagina in Uttar Pradesh registered his protest, Bahraich MP Savitribai Phoole, Robertsganj MP Chote Lal Kharwar and Etawah MP Ashok Kumar Dohrey had publicly expressed unhappiness over the party’s handling of the community and its concerns.

Internal enquiry

The party is viewing the trend with a blend of wariness and realpolitik, with a senior office-bearer in Uttar Pradesh, Sunil Bansal, being tasked with an enquiry. Mr. Bansal is expected to brief BJP president Amit Shah in Lucknow on April 10.

The party is dealing with the fallout of a Supreme Court order on adding checks to the implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the violent protests against the order that followed.

Atrocities against youth

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Singh said, “In the last four years, nothing has been done for the 30 crore Dalits in this country.” He said that his “capabilities have not been put to use” with him becoming an MP “only because of reservation”. He alleged brutalities against Dalit youth during the Uttar Pradesh government’s handling of the Bharat bandh called by various Dalit organisations.

“Specifically with regard to this public airing of grievances, it is part positioning for 2019, part a genuine grievance against the Yogi Adityanath government that has seen an upper caste assertion in the countryside and nervousness with the impending tie-up between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP),” says Sudiep Shrivastava, political analyst and author of a well-regarded book on Indian elections, Chunavon ka Manovigyan .

The BJP won all seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in U.P. in the 2014 elections, and in the 2017 Assembly polls, reduced the BSP to two of the 84 reserved seats, making a clean sweep of 19 seats from the Bundelkhand region, a stronghold of the BSP. The bandh claimed its highest casualties in Bundelkhand.

According to party insiders, a part of the worry also stems from what party men term “the Gujarat model of ticket distribution” under Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah.

“It’s well known that Prime Minister Modi, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, would cut at least one-third of the ticket of sitting MLAs, giving them out to freshers. In U.P., with 71 MPs and likely facing the combined strength of the SP and the BSP, there will be some turmoil related to that,” said a senior BJP leader with links to the State.

Mr. Modi has, since the controversy over the Supreme Court’s orders on the SC/ST Act broke, spoken at various public platforms of the party’s commitment to Dalit welfare. He asked BJP MPs and Ministers to spend at least one night in villages where over 50% of the population is Dalit.

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