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In BJP bid for ‘most favoured’ status among Dalits, Nadda banks on ’emotional connect’

According to sources, the BJP wants to ensure that its Dalit support base in key states should be expanded ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: May 19, 2022 5:47:14 pm
BJP National President J.P. Nadda addresses BJP's 'Samajik Samvad' programme at BJP headquarters, in New Delhi. (PTI)

The initial analysis of the outcome of the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections indicated that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the polls comfortably, might have benefited from the shrinking vote base of the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). But the BJP, which has been working aggressively to expand its support base among the Scheduled Castes (SCs), wants the party workers to ramp up their efforts to reach out to Dalits and improve its acceptance among them so that it becomes the community’s “primary choice” among parties.

In the course of a 9-hour-long meeting with the BJP’s Dalit leaders including MPs, MLAs and its SC Morcha office-bearers, held at its headquarters last Tuesday, party president J P Nadda urged them to build an “emotional connect” with the community.

However, the remarks made by various participants at the meeting, which was also attended by BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santosh, drove home the point that the saffron party has to take more “social and political initiatives” to gain the confidence of the community, said party sources.

“The meeting enabled many of us to express our views and give suggestions on the issue. The nature of the meeting was more political than social,” said a BJP leader who attended the meeting called the “Samajik Samvad Programme”. “The meeting’s main message was to amplify our efforts to counter the narrative set by our opponents. BJP has been projected by the Opposition as an anti-Dalit party, so we have to counter it by listing the programmes initiated by the Narendra Modi government,” he added.

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According to sources, the BJP wants to ensure that its Dalit support base in key states should be expanded ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Although the UP poll results’ analysis revealed that the BJP managed to wrest a slice of Dalit votes from the BSP, state party leaders maintained that there had not been much cracks in Mayawati’s support base among Jatavs, who make up over 50 per cent of the state’s SC population. Mayawati herself belongs to the Jatav community.

“Just look at this. The BJP fielded Baby Rani Maurya, one of the most prominent faces of the BJP, a leader who belongs to the Jatav community, in Agra rural constituency. She won against the BSP’s Kiran Prabha Kesari. But our assessment showed that in this constituency with 90,000 Jatav voters, the BSP candidate got 56,000 votes, while the average voter turnout was just over 60 per cent there. Does this not show that the Jatav community is still with the BSP?” asked a leader.

The BJP also seems to be concerned over the increase in the SP’s tally among the SC/ST seats. “As per its election strategy, the BJP targeted the Dalit vote after the BSP showed signs of disintegration. But the results proved that this vote got divided,” said the leader.

In the 2017 UP Assembly elections, the BJP had won 69 of the 84 SC-reserved seats while among its then allies the Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) had won three and the Apna Dal (Sonelal) had got two. But in the 2022 polls, the BJP-led alliance collectively won 63 seats – 11 less than in 2017. In contrast, the SP-led alliance won 20 SC-reserved seats as compared to just seven in 2017.

“This itself shows that the party has to do more to increase our reach and deepen the roots among the SC community in key states. While reaching out to the community with various welfare programmes, we have to strengthen the emotional connect with it. This was the message from the leadership (at the meeting),” said another leader.

While the BJP frequently holds such discussions to get feedback from the leaders belonging to the SC community, the party leaders also say that the community has not been given adequate representation in the government or in the party leadership.

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