Nationalists are with us, let’s reach out to Dalits, backwards: PM Narendra Modi to party

Modi alerted his party leaders that “anti-incumbency” will be a factor in the coming elections and the party should find ways to defeat it.

Written by Sheela Bhatt , Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: August 25, 2016 10:31:43 am
narendra modi, modi dalit issue, modi dalits, modi amit shah, narendra modi amit shah, gujarat polls, modi gujarat polls, gujarat elections, una flogging, una dalit protests, gjarat dalit protests, gujarat news, india news Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah at a party meeting in New Delhi, Tuesday. (express Photo: Anil Sharma)

WITHOUT diluting the “nationalist” identity of the BJP, the party needs to work to attract Dalits and tribals to this fold, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly told his party’s “core group” of powerful leaders from all 29 states and seven Union Territories here today.

“Rashtravadi toh hamare saath hain, humein Dalit aur pichchde ko saath lana hai,” (The nationalists are with us, we need to bring Dalits and backwards) Modi said in a speech that wrapped up the day-long event at NDMC Hall.

The Tiranga Yatras organised by the party across the country have energised patriotism and nationalism among the people, Modi said, despite forces working to defame the party.

In the 20th century, Modi said, Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Deendayal Upadhyay had the biggest impact on political thought in India. He said he was “proud” that one of three greatest political thinkers belonged to his party.

If the party’s Allahabad national executive was a warm-up exercise to gear for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, today’s meeting was a firm beginning to put in action changes in the party’s pan-Indian political set-up.

Party president Amit Shah asked all states to form a close-knit core group which will take political decisions for the state.

Modi alerted his party leaders that “anti-incumbency” will be a factor in the coming elections and the party should find ways to defeat it. When Modi spoke, Shah, Ram Lal and Arun Jaitley were on the dais.

Many senior leaders who participated in the closed-door meeting said that it was clear that Modi was looking at a second term. Said one of the participants: “He clearly articulated why this country needs a nationalist party for at least 30 years otherwise it will be weakened.”

Sources said that Dalits, the importance of social media for BJP politicians and the importance to retain a “nationalist character “ were themes that dominated Modi’s speech. BJP leaders were asked to analyse why do “Dalits and tribals don’t consider BJP their own party in spite of the party having many Dalits and tribal leaders.”

A statement from the BJP issued later quoted the PM as saying: “We are continuously working for development but there are some elements who do not like it. They are trying to divert our and people’s attention. We will have to inform the common man that our sole aim is nation-building.”

Modi underlined that the way the party functioned when it was in power needed to be different from the time when it was in the opposition. When we are in government, we are watched by everyone, he said.

Earlier, party chief Amit Shah stressed on the need for discipline and unity and said the party has to expand geographically and across different sections of society. For this to happen, Shah said, the government and the party need to work in coordination, hold regular reviews and ensure appropriate changes.

Clearly, a senior BJP leader said, the Vajpayee-Advani era is over and under the Modi-Shah dispensation, significant changes in the party structure are in the offing. Leadership in states will be configured in such a manner, he said, that it;s collectrive leadership. “Neither a Chief Minister nor a state party president will be the centre of power,” he said.

Responding to The Indian Express report (Nationalists are with us, let’s reach out to Dalits, backwards: PM to party), Office Secretary, BJP, Mahendra Pandey today issued a two-page press release. On the report, it said that it was “baseless, inappropriate, and far from the facts.” It added: “It seems the newspaper, in trying to arrive at a conclusion of its own, has given credence to inaccurate details and published a report that is misleading. The fact is that the newspaper ignored the official press release issued by the BJP on the Honourable Prime Minister’s speech.”

The Indian Express replies: Contrary to the BJP statement, the report quotes the BJP press release on the PM’s address: “We are continuously working for development but there are some elements who do not like it. They are trying to divert our and people’s attention. We will have to inform the common man that our sole aim is nation-building.” There is no insinuation in the report that the Prime Minister drew a distinction between nationalists and Dalits and tribals. The report said the PM underlined the need for the party to be inclusive and work to attract Dalits and tribals into the party’s fold. As for the rest of the press statement attacking The Indian Express, this newspaper finds it unworthy of comment.

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