Gujarat’s new chief minister Vijay Rupani said on Thursday that the BJP’s rivals were giving political colour to attacks on Dalits for political gains elsewhere, especially in poll-bound states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
“If Dalits are being targeted in other states, it doesn’t become an issue…it has been made a political issue because it happened in Gujarat. Parties are trying to take political mileage out of it in other states…Uttar Pradesh and also Punjab,” Rupani told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.
The comments by Rupani, who replaced Anandiben Patel on August 9, comes in the backdrop of a public thrashing of four Dalit youths at a village in Una district by self-styled cow protection vigilantes.
Dalits launched street protests over the incident, mounting pressure on the ruling BJP which is struggling to retain its key vote bank of Patidars who are demanding reservation in jobs and colleges.
Rupani termed the Una incident as “unfortunate” and added that the state government acted promptly by filing an FIR and arresting some of accused.
His comment on politicisation of the issue was in reference to visits by a host of national leaders including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and BSP president Mayawati to the state and meeting the Dalit family.
Rupani said his government will take a “positive and conciliatory approach” toward the Patidars.
When asked whether the Anandiben government could have handled the agitation differently to contain it in the beginning, he said, “I would not like to comment on matters of past. I can only share my future plans…The intensity of the agitation has come down. It is now just a section (of Patidars) that is still agitated…we will approach them and try to sort out the issue.”
The 61-year-old leader with political roots in the RSS believes that Anandiben set an example for the cadre by resigning.
Anandiben’s resignation through a Facebook post came soon after the Una incident sparked a Dalit outrage even as Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who was released from jail earlier in July, vowed to continue the quota agitation.