BJP's Dalit woes mount as Hindutva pitch gets shriller

The challenge before BJP to reconcile the competing spaces of hardline Hindutva politics and Dalit issues still seems surmountable even as it made serious efforts to rope in Dalits and give importance to Ambedkar's legacy by creating memorials and Chairs in Universities in the name of Dalit icons. (DH File Photo)

On a day VHP is organising “Shaurya Divas” in Ayodhya to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Babri mosque demolition, young and vocal Dalit MP from BJP, Savitri Bai Phule, resigned from the party expressing dissatisfaction with its policies.

The irony was not lost.
 
Phule’s resignation coincided with the death anniversary (Mahaparinirvan Divas) of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar.
 
Phule’s resignation caps the resentment expressed by a number of Dalit leaders from the NDA fold, and many of them have recently flagged their disapproval of Sangh Parivar’s renewed Hindutva pitch.
 
“BJP is on two boats or you can say BJP is trying to ride two lions. That is dangerous unless the rider is very smart and can manage well. So far the Dalit constituency has not been comfortable with these issues,” says columnist Badri Narayan, a professor of Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.
 
Narayan says that Dalits getting restive in BJP and NDA is also a reflection of their unhappiness over their representation. “While the anger among NDA MPs could be attributed to the dissatisfaction over-representation, BJP’s reach out to Dalits by trying to bring them into Hindutva politics is a difficult task.”
 
Phule, who resigned from the BJP on Wednesday, had taken a stand contrary to the party on Ram temple, pitching for installing a statue of Lord Buddha at the disputed site in Ayodhya and had opposed ‘dalit Hanuman’ remark of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
 
While Phule has the image of a rabble-rouser, causing embarrassment to BJP, even a reticent Ram Vilas Paswan, who had strongly backed BJP on many issues, disapproved of the noise for Ordinance on Ram temple and flagged Dalits’ discomfiture with Hindu Rashtra pitch of the saffron parivar.
 
Already Hindustan Awam Morcha headed by Mahadalit leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, which had joined the NDA in 2015, has quit the alliance and is now with the coalition of parties led by Lalu Prasad’s RJD.
 
Though BJP got considerable votes of non-Jatav Dalits in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and even in 2017 UP assembly polls, of late the party has found itself at the receiving end of Dalit outrage
 
The challenge before BJP to reconcile the competing spaces of hardline Hindutva politics and Dalit issues still seems surmountable even as it made serious efforts to rope in Dalits and give importance to Ambedkar's legacy by creating memorials and Chairs in Universities in the name of Dalit icons.
 
NDA ally Om Prakash Rajbhar on Tuesday demanded a ban on Bajrang Dal and VHP after activists from the two organisations were booked for Bulandshahar violence over cow carcass in which two, including a cop, were killed. 

Dalit dilemma

Ironically, BJP’s Dalit dilemma continues even as it has the largest chunk of around 40 Dalit MPs in the Lok Sabha and has a number of Dalit ministers, including Thawar Chand Gehlot (BJP), Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), Ramdas Athavale (RPI).
 
Eight months before Phule quit finally on Wednesday, she had held an independent rally in Lucknow on April 1 named ‘Samvidhan Bachao Aarakshan Bachao (Save Constitution, Save Reservation)’.
 
Around the same time, three more BJP Dalit MPs from UP –Yashwant Singh, Chhotelal Kharwar and Ashok Dohrey wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi  against the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in that state.  
 
While Dalits constitute 17 % population nationwide, in Uttar Pradesh, they are more than 20 % and their votes are crucial for 80 Lok Sabha seats where the BJP had done well in last LS polls.

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BJP's Dalit woes mount as Hindutva pitch gets shriller

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