The Adityanath gov­ern­ment’s fee­ble at­tempts to woo the Dal­its only serve to alien­ate the com­mu­nity

India Today - - STATES - By Ashish Misra

When Yogi Adityanath de­cided the time had come to share a meal with a Dalit fam­ily, over­cau­tious of­fi­cials chose the home of Lekh­pal Asharam, a lower caste state em­ployee of Mad­hupur vil­lage in Prat­ap­garh district. Then try­ing to hush in­dig­nant Dalit voices in the vil­lage, they an­nounced that the chief min­is­ter would in fact eat in the house of Asharam’s brother, Da­yaram Saroj. But fi­nally when the CM’s mo­tor­cade rolled into Mad­hupur on April 23, it was to Asharam’s home, while the of­fi­cials present pre­tended it was the brother’s shanty. Af­ter the fi­asco was over, an of­fi­cial of the CM’s of­fice was at pains to as­sert that it did not mat­ter who the owner was, for “the CM did have lunch in a Dalit house­hold”.

The lunch-gone-bad con­tro­versy notwith­stand­ing, there are ev­i­dent signs the rul­ing BJP is los­ing the Dal­its in Ut­tar Pradesh. Even the party’s na­tional Sched­uled Castes chief, Sanjay Paswan, con­curs: “It’s true, the Dalit com­mu­nity has be­come more alien­ated since 2014.” He at­tributes this to a com­bi­na­tion of mis­takes by the saf­fron lead­er­ship and to Op­po­si­tion pro­pa­ganda. Paswan, how­ever, be­lieves UP’s Dal­its will re­turn to the saf­fron fold they em­braced in Lok Sabha 2014. “We are try­ing to win back their trust,” he says.

The party is hop­ing the 20-day (April 14 to May 5) Gram Swaraj cam­paign, wherein BJP lead­ers in­clud­ing most state min­is­ters reached out to re­mote Dalit vil­lages in the state, will have re­paired some of the da­m­age. It was mod­elled much like Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi’s for­ays be­fore the 2014 polls, but the BJP’s out­reach seems to have boomerange­d, leav­ing many se­nior lead­ers mired in con­tro­versy, quite like what fol­lowed Adityanath’s lunch date in Mad­hupur.

Like when the party’s Ali­garh in-charge, Suresh Rana, went to Lo­ha­garh vil­lage. Lo­cal BJP func­tionar­ies en­sured a meal served at the Dalit Satish Jatav’s home was cooked by a hired caterer at the pan­chayat

bha­van. Rana later in­sisted that though he brought it from out­side, the food was cooked by Dal­its.

Re­tired Dalit po­lice of­fi­cer S.R. Dara­puri feels the BJP lead­ers’ cur­rent an­tics are mere “eye­wash” that only proves how Dal­its are still seen as un­touch­ables. “It does noth­ing to el­e­vate our sta­tus, or em­power Dal­its so­cially,” he says.

An­a­lysts say the saf­fron lead­er­ship is now all the more ap­pre­hen­sive about los­ing out on Dalit votes in 2019 af­ter the twin de­ba­cles in Phulpur and Go­rakh­pur. The BJP lost both par­lia­men­tary by­polls with BSP chief Mayawati suc­cess­fully trans­fer­ring the party’s core Dalit sup­port base to the Sa­ma­jwadi Party.

Wor­ry­ingly for the party, un­der Adityanath, the BJP is also wit­ness­ing dis­af­fec­tion amid its own Dalit lead­ers. On April 1, a huge gath­er­ing of the party’s Dalit sup­port­ers turned out at the Kan­shi­ram Sm­riti Up­van in Luc­know to hear BJP Dalit MP Sav­it­ribai Phule rail against the state gov­ern­ment. She al­leged the state gov­ern­ment was out to end Dalit quo­tas through pri­vati­sa­tion.

Phule is not alone. Ashok Dohre, the BJP MP from Etawah, is an­gry at the ha­rass­ment of Dal­its fol­low­ing the Supreme Court judg­ment ‘di­lut­ing’ pro­vi­sions of the SC-ST Act. Roberts­ganj MP C. Lal Khar­war and Nag­ina MP Yash­want Singh have also ques­tioned the con­duct of their gov­ern­ment.

Sud­denly, it’s not look­ing too good for the BJP vis-a-vis the Dal­its, both on the ground, and within its own ranks.

Wor­ry­ingly for the BJP, the party’s own Dalit leg­is­la­tors like Sav­it­ribai Phule are rail­ing against the state gov­ern­ment

COM­MU­NAL FEAST CM Yogi Adityanath in Mad­hupur vil­lage for his lunch-at-a-Dal­itres­i­dence show­piece


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