At a time when the government is grappling with Dalit anger in states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said that the Centre should bring forward Dalit leaders from its allies to counter the opposition “propaganda”.
Asked if the BJP should involve Dalit leaders like him and Ramdas Athavale (RPI-A), he said, “Yes. All of us are ready. BJP should bring forward all the Dalit leaders of the NDA to take to the people the work being done by the government for Dalits and counter the opposition’s propaganda.”
Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party is part of NDA and claims to have a support base among non-Jatav Dalits, also stressed that if BJP goes for a tie-up with smaller parties, including the LJP, in UP, it will be a winning combination.
“If the BJP takes along regional parties in the elections including LJP, it will be a winning combination in UP. LJP has its votes among Pasis, Paswan and other non- Jatavs… Even Jatavs (the Dalit sub-caste to which Mayawati belongs) are associated with our party-wing Dalit Sena, which has a strong presence in UP. We held five rallies in UP recently — in Lucknow, Varanasi, Saarnath, Faizabad, Hapur. There was an impressive gathering and almost 90 per cent of those who attended were Dalits,” Paswan said.
Last week, Paswan had led a party delegation to Home Minister Rajnath Singh to flag LJP’s concerns over the issue of atrocities against Dalits. On Wednesday, a delegation from the LJP is expected to meet BJP President Amit Shah.
He, however, evaded a direct reply when asked whether he would ask the BJP to have a tie-up with the LJP for UP polls.
He also staunchly defended the Modi government on the issue of alleged atrocities against Dalits. “Such incidents have happened in Bihar as well, where within a week, Dalits have been tortured at four places,” he said.
But Paswan doesn’t think that BJP’s prospects in UP have been damaged due to recent controversies involving Dalits.
“Mayawati is politicising it, but she has got into a trap. When Dayashankar Singh made the controversial remarks
against Mayawati, members in both Houses condemned, even though the BSP has no member in the Lok Sabha. But equally vulgar words were used against Dayashankar’s daughter and wife by Mayawati and her partymen. She justified that. Mayawati tried to get political mileage…but she has been put on the backfoot,” he said.