Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati (bottom right) stands near statues of herself (L) Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (C) and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Kansi Ram in a hall at a newly inaugurated park in Noida. (Photo: AP Photo)
Looking to make a dent in Mayawati’s Dalit base, the BJP is attempting to appropriate “local” Dalit icons, claiming that the BSP’s focus is on Dalit-Bahujan icons who have nothing to do with Uttar Pradesh.
“Among the Dalit icons Mayawati has promoted are leaders who have no connection whatsoever with UP. We respect them, but we are focussing on UP-specific icons like Ravidas, a cobbler, Kabir, a weaver who is highly regarded by Koris, Raja Bijli Pasi, Jhalkari Bai Kori, a key associate of Rani Jhansi, Uda Devi, a Khatik, and sage Valmiki, a local Valmiki icon,” said BJP national spokesperson and Dalit leader Ramnath Kovind.
He underlined that Mayawati’s Dalit-Bahujan icons like Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, Sri Narayana Guru, and Jyotiba Phule are little known in the state.
In line with such icon building not for Dalits as a monolith but with each Dalit caste in mind, the party’s list of Dalit candidates has 20 Jatavs, 25 Pasis, nine Koris, six Valmikis, six Khatiks/Sonkars and six Dhobis.
Much like the Congress’ Dalit outreach programme, the saffron party, too, has a sub-group dedicated to Dalits. It had organised a major Dalit Adhikar rally in Lucknow in October, followed by Dalit meetings in all 403 constituencies in the state.