Throwing an open challenge to his critics who claimed that he literally gate-crashed into the house of a Dalit and had dinner with them in Aligarh’s Lohagarh village, Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana today said that “Dalit tourism” is not in the BJP’s tradition. “I am throwing an open challenge to them to prove that even a single grain of food came from outside. In fact, all food items were cooked in the village and by the villagers. “The programme was organised by the local MLA (Anoop Valmiki) and the village pradhan. As per the plan, a breakfast was planned with a Dalit family the next morning, but I had expressed a desire that instead of having dinner at the community centre, I will have it at the house of a Dalit,” he said.
The minister’s reaction came after reports that he may have taken his own food and water. According to reports, the minister and his aides reached the home of a Dalit family in Aligarh to dine with them, but ordered food, mineral water and cutlery from outside as the family was not aware of the minister’s visit. Minister of state (independent charge) for sugarcane development Rana told PTI that at around 11.00 pm (on Monday), he went to the house located opposite the community centre, and ate food with them, spent an hour with them and also slept there itself.
Attacking the Congress, Rana said in an interview, “I want to convey one thing to the leaders of the Congress that the Dalit tourism undertaken by them is not a tradition of the BJP. If they spend a night at the community centre, then they will realize the drive of the BJP. We do not take 7-star facilities along with ourselves during pravaas (night halts). In fact we make pravaas in the existing facilities of the villages.”
The UP minister also said, “An issue was raised that heavy mattresses were arranged for me. Does this mean that the people of the village have no right to arrange a good quality mattress?” “The bed on which I slept was from the village. The pillow, bedsheet were all from the village itself,” he asserted. Training his guns on his political rivals, Rana said, “I want to question the people who indulge in politics over meal (bhojan pe raajniti). My question to them is that if the Dalit society has come to a position where it can organize a meal for people visiting its village or host a good meal, then what is the problem?
The root of the problem is not the meal, but the fact that at around 11.00 pm why a BJP minister is present in the village, and why a crowd of more than 2,000 people are present with him.” In fact, such people felt that they were losing political ground as the campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to integrate Dalits, oppressed and deprived with the development process have shown positive results, he said.
The villages which had not witnessed development and were away from the ambit of development due to caste factor, have been made a part of the development saga and a conscious effort has been initiated to resolve the problems of the villagers at the village level itself. This has created an atmosphere of trust and harmony, he said. The presence of 2,000 people during night in a village is enough indication that they have expressed happiness in the various schemes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, he said.
“A number of beneficiaries of different schemes were given the certificates and other material. But, no one spoke about it,” Rana said. He also observed that the rival political parties are afraid of Modi’s mantra ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’. “They feel threatened by this mantra and can visualize the reins of power slipping away from their hands,” the UP minister said. In recent times, several leading politicans, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, had dinner at Dalit households.