Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said that the upper castes are the backbone of the ruling BJP and that they should be given 15% reservation. In an interview to Hindustan Times, Paswan who is seen as the senior-most Dalit leader in the Modi government said that the recent protests against the government’s decision to reverse the Supreme Court’s order on SC/ST Act will have no impact on the vote bank of the BJP. He said that the upper castes are the hardcore supporters of the BJP and that they will never vote for RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party) or Mayawati (BSP).
Paswan said that it is wrong to call the Modi government ‘anti-Dalit’ and ‘anti-backwards’. He said that there was a perception problem but it has changed now. Paswan who is the president of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), said that the government has done a lot of work to uplift the marginalised sections of the society, adding that PM Narendra Modi gave Dr BR Ambedkar his due.
“Six months ago, we faced so much protest. It had become difficult for ministers to move. The Modi government was called ‘anti-Dalit’ and ‘anti-backward’,” he said. “A lot of work was done but there was a perception problem. Today, the perception has changed. I often say that only two leaders – VP Singh and Narendra Modi – gave BR Ambedkar his due.”
When asked about the protests by the upper castes, he said that the unrest will die down in a few months from now. He said that “there is no protest and whatever is there, it is temporary”.
“The upper castes are hardcore BJP voters, and they will remain loyal to the BJP,” he said.
“Do you think they will go to Lalu Prasad, who abuses them on a daily basis? Or will they go with Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav?” Paswan asked.
To a question whether he feels something needs to be done for upper castes too, he replied: “Why ‘something’? They should be given 15% reservation.”
On Supreme Court’s decision to dilute stringent provisions in the SC/ST Act, Paswan said that had the government brought an ordinance on the first day, “Things would not have turned this bad”. The Minister said that the committee headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh of which he is also a part, decided to bring an ordinance, but bureaucracy has its own speed.
“Whatever happens, happens for the good. Had there been no protests, the people would not have known what Modi has done,” he said.
Paswan also attacked the Congress party for attempting to paint a wrong image of the Modi government. He said that today, the perception has not only changed but the same people have started dubbing us as anti-upper-caste.
“The BJP can never have an anti-upper-caste perception. Upper castes are the backbone of the BJP. They are the party’s natural allies,” Paswan said.
The Central government had last month brought a bill in the Parliament to reverse the Supreme Court’s earlier decision that had diluted stringent provisions in the SC/ST Act. The court’s February order had triggered a nationwide violent protest by Dalits, leaving at least 10 dead.