After taking part in a token fast, called by the Congress as part of the party’s nationwide programme for harmony and peace, AICC president Rahul Gandhi on Monday lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pointing out that some of BJP’s own MPs have called him “casteist” and “anti-Dalit”.
Drawing reference to recent remarks by some Dalit MPs of the BJP, Rahul said, “When you talk to them (BJP MPs) in Parliament, they tell us that Modi-ji is casteist and anti-Dalit. Modi-ji does not have any place in his heart for Dalits. The entire nation knows this — it is not a secret.”
While the trigger for the Congress’s nationwide fast on Monday was the Dalit upsurge, it was also to preemptively counter the BJP’s fast on April 12 to protest the impasse caused by the Opposition in the just-concluded Budget Session of Parliament. Rahul said the protest fast by the Congress was against a “school of thought”.
Referring to BJP president Amit Shah’s remarks that opposition leaders are like snakes and mongooses who flock together during floods, Rahul said, “Some days ago, a BJP leader said people in the opposition are animals. The truth is that today every individual in India is standing against the government. We are standing against this government’s approach against Dalits, tribals, minorities and farmers,” he said.
Gandhi said the country will not accept the Narendra Modi government’s act of spreading violence and hatred. “We are standing here against that ideology,” he said. “We will stand against it all our life…and we will defeat them in 2019 elections.” He parried a question on the BJP’s criticism and said the atmosphere created in the country is because of the ruling party’s ideology — “to divide the country and crush Dalits, tribals and minorities”.
Having remained quiet on minorities before the Gujarat elections, the word seems to have returned to Rahul’s lexicon ahead of the elections in Karnataka next month, to be followed by Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
In Lingayat and Vokkaliga-dominated state, AHINDA — the Kannada acronym for Minorities, Backwards and Dalits — has been Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s trump card. The party is hoping that a division in Lingayat votes — Lingayats have traditionally voted for the saffron party, with BJP’s chief minister face B S Yeddyurappa being a tall leader from the community — and AHINDA support for the Congress will help it retain power in Karnataka.