Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accused Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar of conspiring to take away part of the quota for Dalits and EBCs and give it to another community, the BJP turned the allegation into a formal election plank by putting out front-page advertisements in local newspapers in Patna.
And where Modi had left the “other community” unnamed in his speech in Buxar, the party has spelt it out. Its quarter-page and bottomspread advertisements allege that Lalu and Nitish’s aim is to transfer the quota to minorities.
Leaders of the grand alliance saw a sign of desperation in the BJP’s pitch, saying the party has sensed it is losing the elections.
Monday’s ads appeared as part of a series that the BJP has been running. Called “Jawab Nahin, Vote Nahin (If you have no answer, you get no vote)”, the ads have been asking Lalu a series of questions with the tagline “Lalu-Nitish jawab do, 25 saalo ka hisab do”.
“Daliton, pichchado ki thali kheech alpasankhyakon ki aarakshan parosne ka shadyantra kya sushashan hai?” asks Wednesday’s ad, alleging a “conspiracy to snatch from the plate of Dalits and backwards and serve it to minorities”.
The ad addresses leaders of each constituent of the maha gathbandhan. It reminds Nitish of a speech he had made in Parliament in 2005, when he called for Muslims among Dalits to be included among the SCs. Nitish repeated that view in 2007 at an OBC Muslim rally at Rafiganj, Aurangabad, it adds.
The JD(U) agreed Nitish had made those remarks. “Yes, we stand by what Nitish said,” said Ali Anwar, Rajya Sabha MP with the JD(U) and head of All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz. “When we say Dalit, we don’t differentiate and mean all Dalits, Hindu or Muslim. Besides, we were talking of increasing the quota of Dalits, not of taking away from the existing quota.”
He added that after Nitish’s statement, the Bihar assembly during Lalu’s regime had passed a resolution to this effect. “The BJP didn’t oppose it then. Uttar Pradesh passed a similar resolution and Dalit leader Mayawati didn’t oppose it; when Andhra Pradesh passed one, NDA ally N Chandrababu Naidu didn’t object,” Anwar said. “The BJP is desperate midway through an election that they know they are losing.”
The BJP ad’s questions to Lalu and the Congress, too, harp back on earlier statements made by leaders. It reminds Lalu of his 2014 party’s manifesto which, it says, promised to amend Article 341 of the Constitution to add Muslims and Christians among SCs.
The RJD denied it. “We never said anything about tampering with constitutional provisions,” said Manoj Jha, RJD national spokesperson. “The BJP has lost its face at the national level. Such acts and statements are coming out of its desperation and are aimed at communalising the elections.”
Addressing the Congress, the BJP ad refers to a speech in 2011 by Digvijaya Singh in Lucknow, where he called for reservation for Dalit Muslims, and another by Salman Khurshid in 2012, when he called for nine per cent reservation for Muslims.
“Yes, our leaders said so,” said Prem Chandra Mishra of the AICC media cell. “Even in Andhra Pradesh, we sought a four per cent quota for Muslims. The court in Hyderabad ruled it out and we did not press it further.” About the BJP, he echoed his allies’ views: “They are fighting a losing battle.”