The BJP is set to hold a “brainstorming session” in the capital next week on ways to shrug off its “anti-Dalit” image that has been on the rise since the suicide of Hyderabad scholar Rohith Vemula early this year.
Over 100 Scheduled Caste leaders of the country’s ruling party will gather here on Monday to share thoughts about countering the issue and evolving a strategy amid certain key states going for assembly polls next year.
“Our leaders need to communicate and set the records straight,” BJP’s SC front chief Dushyant Gautam told HT.
The event seeks to stem bad publicity the BJP has of late been earning on social, print and electronic media. Divided into four sessions, the workshop will get a picture from the party’s SC leaders on how they see people view the matter.
Gautam said the BJP felt the press was “not being kind to us” in reporting incidents of alleged Dalit atrocities. “There is impression going out as if the BJP was opposed to Dalits. This, when our government’s effort is to empower that community,” he added.
The party is also planning a nationwide series of Dalit youth conferences. Delhi will host one next month, the dates of which are being finalised.
Over 20 crore people—nearly 17% of India’s population—belong to various Scheduled Castes. As voters with a largely similar political attitude, their near-similar voting pattern makes them a vote-bank.
Dalits are crucial in poll-bound Punjab (32%), Uttar Pradesh (21%) and Uttarakhand (19%). The BJP is desperate to retain Punjab and win the other two states.
Starting with the 17 January suicide of Vemula, a Hyderabad Central University scholar to flogging of Dalits at Una in Gujarat in July to continuing beef-related incidents, the BJP has been in the Opposition’s line of fire.
The gravity of the matter prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appeal to stop attacking Dalits. “If you want to shoot, shoot me,” he told a Hyderabad rally on August 8.
At a different event a day before that, he said cow vigilantes (who attacked Dalits) “make me angry”.
In May, BJP chief Shah took a dip in river Kshipra in Ujjain along with Dalits and broke bread with them. Shah also lunched at a Dalit’s house during his Uttar Pradesh tour last month.