BJP’s fear: spread of Dalit anger beyond Maharashtrahttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/bjps-fear-spread-of-dalit-anger-beyond-maharashtra-5010719/

BJP’s fear: spread of Dalit anger beyond Maharashtra

The BJP has directed its Maharashtra leadership and the state government to “do everything” to contain the situation.

BJP’s fear: spread of Dalit anger beyond Maharashtra
A train stopped during a ‘rail roko’ protest at Goregaon station in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)

The Bhima Koregaon clashes may be “politically motivated” but it has the potential to spread across and beyond Maharashtra and spoil the party’s build-up on its Dalit support base and damage its good governance brand, BJP sources said on Wednesday.

The BJP has directed its Maharashtra leadership and the state government to “do everything” to contain the situation.

“The party is aware that a minor clash has been made into a big incident by political intervention. But the party has to control the situation as quickly as possible. We cannot afford Dalit anger in this juncture. It has the potential to spoil all our attempts to incorporate Dalits into our core support base,” said a senior BJP leader.

The leadership rushed Raosaheb Danve, the state president, to Maharashtra on Wednesday to hold meetings with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and senior leader and cabinet minister Chandrakant Patil, among others. Another review meeting will take place on Thursday, which will be attended by BJP general secretary Saroj Pande.

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Minister of state for Home and Lok Sabha MP from Chandrapur Hanraj Gangaram Ahir said the BJP government said: “The state government is doing everything possible to see that things are under control. In fact, now it is under control. The Centre is in touch with the state government.”

The BJP’s worries are that the clash could lead to emergence of Dalit leaders like the Una incident in Gujarat produced leaders such as Jignesh Mewani, and it could adversely affect the party’s attempts to woo Dalits and turn them into its support base. Another factor that disturbs the BJP, according to party sources, is that participation of the Republican Party of India (RPI) cadre, including the supporters of Ramdas Athawale, in the protests.

The BJP does not have a Dalit face in the state, nor does it have a support base among lower-caste sections. By inducting Athawale into the council of ministers, the party’s bid was to woo Dalits. Such clashes in a state where the party is seen as standing with upper castes and Marathas could hurt its interest vis-a-vis Dalit votes.

Officially, BJP MPs maintained that the violence in Maharahstra which has spread from Bhima Koregaon to other parts of the state was “instigated” by the “political forces which are desperate to gain power in Maharashtra.”
BJP MP from Mumbai North Gopal Shetty said “political interventions” led to violence.

“This is to get political hold before 2019 elections. They could not do much in Gujarat and they are trying to gain ground in Maharahstra now,” Shetty said.

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