On a day when BJP’s ally Shiv Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad staged shows of strength in Ayodhya to up the ante over the Ram temple issue, representatives of more than 150 Dalit outfits marched to Mumbai’s Chaityabhoomi to send a message to the Narendra Modi-led government ahead of the 2019 polls.
Accusing the Modi government and the BJP of “murdering democracy” and “trampling on the tenets of the Constitution”, the Dalit outfits demanded that all the Opposition parties come together to contest the polls unitedly.
Communist Party of India’s national council member and former Jawaharlal Nehru University’s students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was present for the rally held at Dadar’s Chaityabhoomi on the eve of Constitution Day, launched a scathing attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Earlier in the day, Kumar had also addressed a similar gathering staged by 14 youth outfits for “saving the Constitution”. These included the youth wings of both the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in the state, who were spearheading the rally.
“Modiji Mann ki Baat karte hain, par bhook aur kaam ki baat nahin karte. (PM Modi does Maan ki Baat, but he does not talk about hunger and work),” said Kumar, while addressing the youth workers rally.
The barb was aimed at reports of 14 deaths reported recently in Jharkhand, allegedly due to starvation.
He fired another barb at the second gathering. “Ram ki chinta se jyaada, sarkar ko apke kaam ki chinta honi chahiye.
(More than the Ram temple issue, the government should be more worried about ensuring jobs to people).” He added, “We do not elect governments to build temples, but to construct schools, hospitals, eradicate poverty, and give jobs.”
While accusing the Modi government of “systematically trampling upon” academic institutions and democratic conventions, Kumar took a dig at Modi. “Modiji rote bahut hain. (PM Modi often gets emotional during his speeches). I am planning to write to Oscar Award organisers to consider our Prime Minister’s entry for the best actor’s award,” he said.
He also targeted the government over the ongoing controversy within the Central Bureau of Investigation, and the government’s stand off with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). “The PM says demonetisation unearthed Rs 3 lakh crore worth of black money, but the RBI has indicated nothing of that sort. He (the PM) is telling a lie,” said Kumar.
Accusing the BJP of dividing the nation on religious grounds, he further said, “Na Hindu khatre main hai na hi Muslim, magar desh khatre main hai aur sanvidhan bhi. (Neither Hindus nor Muslims are under threat. The nation is under threat, and so is the Constitution),” he said.
Both the gatherings were also addressed by Gujarat Opposition MLA and Dalit rights activist Jignesh Mevani and Patidar quota spearhead Hardik Patel. “Our concern is that the concern for issues of the labour class has vanished from the political discourse in the past 4.5 years. This government is anti-poor, and anti-farmer,” said Mevani. “About 84 crore of India’s population makes ends meet earning just Rs 20 per day. But their upliftment is not this government’s priority.”
Mevani also hit out at the Devendra Fadnavis government for “going soft” on Shiv Pratisthan Hindusthan leader Sambhaji Bhide and former BJP corporator Milind Ekbote, both of whom have been accused of allegedly instigating violence against those who had gathered to pay homage to the martyrs of the Battle of Koregaon on its 200th annivesary on January 1 this year.
Patel, meanwhile, called for youth movements across the country to unite to fight for “saving the Constitution”.