Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said on Thursday Dalits will never forgive the BJP after a party leader compared her to a prostitute, as protests over the statement rocked Uttar Pradesh and Parliament.
Her comments came minutes after the BSP called off massive street protests in Lucknow after the state administration said BJP leader Daya Shankar Singh – who made the controversial remark – will be arrested in 36 hours.
“Filthy language used against me, Dalits will never forgive BJP,” Mayawati told reporters.
The BJP moved swiftly after the comments sparked a political storm on Wednesday, expelling Singh and apologizing to Mayawati. But this didn’t appear to have impressed the BSP chief, who demanded Singh’s arrest.
“The BJP could have won my heart if they had filed an FIR against Daya Shankar Singh,” she said.
As calls for his arrests grew, police raided his Lucknow residence but were told he is possibly on a tour of Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Sources told HT he is likely to surrender in a Lucknow court in a few hours.
“People from weaker sections of society cutting across party lines respect me a lot, they treat me as goddess... And if you say bad things about their goddess they will feel bad and are bound to protest,” Mayawati said.
The protests are politically significant as they come months ahead of crucial polls in Uttar Pradesh, where both the BJP and BSP are aggressively wooing the influential Dalit vote. The scheduled castes have traditionally voted for the BSP and stayed away from the BJP -- which is seen as a party of the dominant castes -- but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made several overtures to the community, including inducting several Dalit members into his council of ministers recently.
Earlier in the day, thousands of BSP workers and leaders thronged the central squares of Lucknow in protest against Singh’s comment. They demanded the BJP leader’s arrest and burnt his effigies with police putting up barricades to stop BJP and BSP workers from fighting it out on the streets.
“I haven’t asked anyone to protest on the issue. The language used by the BJP leader was so bad that people from weaker sections, especially Dalits, protested on their own. I can’t stop them. But I want to assure them that I will continue to fight for their rights”, said the BSP chief.
In Parliament, Mayawati received the support of all political parties with the Opposition trying to use the issue to corner the government.