Why is the BJP creating so much buzz around the night-stays and lunches at homes of its Dalit leaders when the party itself had been highly critical of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who had set the trend back in 2008?
Rahul first spent the night at the hut of Sunita Kori, a Dalit woman, in Gauriganj in his Lok Sabha constituency of Amethi when Mayawati was chief minister. While the Opposition pooh-poohed Rahul’s attempt to woo Dalits, he sporadically continued his night-stay programme. Ahead of the 2014 general elections, yoga guru Baba Ramdev described them as “picnics and honeymoons” while the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, labelled it as “poverty tourism”.
As the scramble for Dalit votes begins for the 2017 elections, so has politics over night-stays and lunches at their homes. Dr Nirmal of Ambedkar Mahasabha says nothing hurts the community more than the much-hyped meals as it compels them to believe that people still consider them intellectuals.
The Sangh Parivar has stepped into the Congress’ shoes in their bid to win over the community. While the rank and file have been asked to embark on a night-stay programme across the state, both B JP and RS S chiefs, Am it Shah and Mohan Bhagwat, broke bread with party Dalit leaders, which many in their party described as part of their larger Dal it outreach mission.
While B hag wat had lunch at the Agra residence of swayamsewak Choudhury Rajan Singh, RSS’s Dal it face, Shah at eat B JP Dal it MP K au sh al Ki shore’ s home in Bag aria village in Lucknow’ s Mo han la lg anj area. They described the meals as apolitical. Rajan Singh, in his bid to downplay the Dalit factor, said, “We at the RSS don’t believe in caste and generally visit each other’s home.”
But the opposition is critical. At rallies, Mayawati described these lunches as political drama that in no way removed the rampant untouchability while Congress leader PL Punia finds it “highly objectionable” and “cheap”.