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Gujarat protest: Under fire, BJP tries to contain surging Dalit ire

Party leaders feel cow issue could bring Muslims and Dalits together in UP, proving disastrous for BJP.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: July 22, 2016 5:05:01 pm
 gujarat dalit protest, bjp, uttar pradesh elections 2017, dalit votes, muslim votes, uttar pradesh bjp, una, una protests, dalit, dalit protests, dalit thrashing, gujarat, una violence, dalit beating, rajya sabha, parliament, mayawati, indian express news This issue is over. We took action against Dayashankar Singh… In Gujarat, government has taken prompt action: Naidu (Source: PTI Photo)

Fears of a countrywide Dalit uprising following the assault on a Dalit family in Gujarat by ‘gau rakshaks’ have prompted senior party leaders to intensify firefighting efforts. The Opposition parties, meanwhile, are leaving no stone unturned to cash in on the opportunity.

On a day when the BSP staged a massive demonstration in Lucknow to protest against a state BJP leader’s derogatory remarks against their leader Mayawati, Union Ministers struggled to defend the party and assert its “sabka saath, sabka vikas” slogan.

I&B Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said Dayashankar Singh’s remark against Mayawati were “born out of insensitivity and arrogance and stupidity… It cannot be accepted.”

Singh, vice-president of BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit, was expelled from the party Wednesday night after his remarks against the BSP chief kicked off a political storm.

“This issue is over. We took action against him. Now what else should we do? What he said was completely objectionable. The leader of the House too condemned the statement,” Naidu said.

He added: “Let them protest, they keep on protesting; be it Congress or others. The thing is that BJP is moving ahead, and they can’t digest that.”

Speaking to reporters, Naidu downplayed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Una in Gujarat to meet the Dalit youths, who were beaten up last week by some people claiming to be ‘gau rakshaks’ when they were reportedly skinning a dead cow.

WATCH VIDEO: Dalit Protests Spread In Gujarat, Voices Rise In Parliament

 

“The state government has taken prompt action…why do you have to go for some photo-op? Why didn’t he (Rahul) go to Kerala when a Dalit girl was raped and killed?,” Naidu said.

Arguing that the strict action indicates the party’s uncompromising stand on issues relating to dignity of women, Union Minister Uma Bharti said: “What Dayashankar said about Mayawati should not have been said for any woman. BJP has taken strict action and has not compromised on the issue.”

She added that it would not have any impact on the BJP’s prospects in the state, which goes to polls next year.

NDA’s Dalit faces too tried to salvage BJP’s image. Union Minister Ramdas Athawale said, “This kind of remark should not be made. In politics, statements, counter- statements happen. But not this kind of statement.”

But he trashed the allegation that the party is anti-Dalit. “It is not so. BJP is trying to give justice to Dalits. In the recent Cabinet expansion, many from Dalit and SC/ST categories got representation,” Athawale, who was inducted into the Council of Ministers recently, said.

But, privately, BJP leaders believe the remarks came at the “worst time” — in the wake of the assault on Dalits in Gujarat. The party had started wooing the Dalits from the BSP. It was also reaching out to BSP rebels Swamy Prasad Maurya and R K Choudhary and Ravindra Nath Tripathi.

“But the way Mayawati is making the best of the opportunity to bounce back, it will be very tough, if not impossible, for the BJP to regain,” said a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh. The leaders admitted that the cow protection issue, could bring Muslims and Dalits together, which will be disastrous for BJP’s prospects in UP.

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