As the BJP tries to placate Dalit voters through outreach programmes like ‘Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’ in run-up to the Lok Sabha polls next year, the BSP has asked its office-bearers and workers to fan out and initiate preemptive steps to ensure the ruling party does not make a dent in a vote bank that has traditionally backed it. Party office-bearers, including coordinators and peoples’ representatives, have been alerted against the “designs” of the BJP behind its leaders undertaking visits to villages for night stays and having dinners at Dalit homes, a BSP leader said, requesting anonymity.
Under the ‘Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’, which was launched earlier this month, the BJP has asked its MPs, including Union ministers, to spend at least a night in villages where SCs/STs constitute over 50 per cent of the population. They have been asked to ensure everyone in such villages is covered under government schemes that aim to provide LPG connections, vaccination to children, ‘Jan Dhan’ accounts and electricity for households.
The campaign is being seen as a part of the BJP’s massive outreach to the rural poor, especially the Dalits, as it gears up for a string of assembly elections leading to the Lok Sabha polls due next year.
The BJP’s campaign comes against the backdrop of opposition parties targeting the Narendra Modi government over its alleged anti-Dalit policies. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has already spent a night each in Pratapgarh and Amroha and held “chaupal” to take feedback on government schemes. He had dinner in a Dalit house.
The BSP leader said the BJP has realised it has earned the ire of Dalits, backwards and minorities because of its policies and the night stay is just an effort to keep them in good humour. “But such programme is not going to serve any purpose.”
“How can the BJP wish away the anger and bad name it has earned by going all out to crush their voice during the ‘Bharat Bandh’ on April 2 and over its stand on dilution of the SC/ST Act…these programmes are merely an effort to somehow divert attention and a drama to show they are very concerned about Dalit issues,” he said.
Since BSP president Mayawati is in Delhi busy chalking out her party’s strategy, she will be meeting her leaders only on her return in May and issuing directives in this regard, the party leader said.
Meanwhile, the BSP is maintaining a close watch on BJP’s “sahbhoj” (community feast), night halts by its leaders in Dalit-dominated areas, their visits to Dalit memorials, yatras and schemes being launched by the saffron party to woo the community, he said. Mayawati has also questioned the purpose of having dinner with Dalit families when the government has been adopting “anti-Dalit policies”.
“First Congress leaders dined at the homes of Dalits and announced it to the world. Now, the BJP is walking in its footsteps. While people think that they are eating food cooked by Dalits, the reality is that it is prepared by upper castes in their own homes,” she has said after Adityanath’s Pratapgarh visit. She has accused the BJP of “totally ignoring” the welfare of Dalits, adivasis, OBCs and upper caste poor and said that organising dinners was putting them in further trouble.
“They do not care about the Dalit and backward classes but when elections come, they go for photo-ops and drama. The Congress and the BJP have proved to be two sides of the same coin. People won’t be befooled, they know the truth,” the BSP supremo had stated.
The Dalits constitute around 18 to 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s voting population. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had managed to wean away the Dalit voters mainly because of the Modi wave. The BSP is seeking to regain its lost ground.