Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadre will visit Dalit localities on August 18 to celebrate the Hindu festival of Rakshabandhan.
The Sangh asserts the initiative, which will be repeated on other festivals, is part of its ongoing Samajik Samarasta (social harmony) programmes but the timing of the effort is not lost on anyone.
With the BJP coming under sharp attack for the growing intolerance against Dalits — reinforced by the recent atrocities in Gujarat’s Una and now Karnataka, where Bajrang Dal activists have been accused of attacking a family on suspicion of cow slaughter — the BJP’s ideological mentor has been forced to step in and fire fight.
“Karyakartas have been asked to create awareness that Dalits are being used as a votebank and their so-called leaders have not delivered. There are no jobs, benefits of reservation have not reached the poor and needy and RSS is the only organisation that walks the talk on casteless society,” a senior functionary said.
The outreach that has been planned with an eye on elections will include underlining the representation of the Dalits in BJP as opposed to other political parties and campaigns to end discrimination faced by Dalits in temples, crematoriums and workplaces.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to his past is also being used as a big draw. Addressing a forum of Dalit entrepreneurs in December 2015, the PM had said, “…Ask me, I know how it feels to be humiliated. From my personal experience I can tell you, the elite still can’t stand it when they see a Dalit wearing nice clothes”.
A senior RSS functionary said the BJP was told to discipline its members and ask them to refrain from derailing the “positive work being done by the Sangh cadre”.