A day before the first phase of assembly elections in Bihar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi played the Dalit card on Sunday and said his government supported reservation policy for the socially backward sections.
“Some believe in misguiding people by saying our party is against reservations and, once in the power, we will do away with reservations. This has been happening since the rule of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and still continues. The propaganda is nothing but a blatant lie and an attempt to mislead people. We believe in the principles of Dr Ambedkar and his teachings of inclusive growth. The reservation policy is something Dr Ambedkar gave to the country and no power can take it away,” the PM said.
“Every time when a BJP government is in power, a group of liars spreads the malicious propaganda that we are out to scrap reservations...Falsehood must stop. Terrorising society must end. This is not politics.”
Modi was addressing a rally at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground after laying the foundation stone for a memorial dedicated to Dr BR Ambedkar at Indu Mills in Dadar. He also laid the foundation stone for two Metro rail corridors and a container terminal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust.
The PM’s assertion came at a time Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad have latched on to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s call for a reivew of the quota policy. In the run-up to the crucial Bihar polls, the so-called grand alliance has claimed there was a sinister attempt to scrap reservations for the backward classes and weaker sections. Caste and reservation are hotly-debated topics in the state.
“Whenever polls approach, opposition begins a debate on reservation,” Modi said, ruling out a rethink on the reservation policy.
“This is something which Babasaheb Ambedkar has given us and no power can take it away,” he said.
“I have seen poverty. I have lived with it and there is a lot to be done for the uplift of the downtrodden of the society to whose betterment Babasheb was committed,” he said.
Recalling Ambedkar’s services to the nation, Modi announced that November 26, the day the Constitution of India came into force, will be observed as the “Constitution Day”.
“If we call Ambedkar as belonging to Dalits in the absence of a long-term vision, it will be a great injustice to him. He belonged to everyone,” he said.
“I don’t want to indulge in politics, but it is a fact that a portrait of Ambedkar, who gave us the Constitution, could adorn Parliament only after a BJP-supported government came to power,” he said.
The Ambedkar memorial is symbolic triumph for the BJP as it heads into one of its toughest state polls in Bihar. Modi’s remarks can be seen as an address to the Dalit constituency 1,875 kilometres away that makes up 16% of the population in Mumbai.
On Sunday, Modi also deplored the delay in awarding the country’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna to Ambedkar.
Affirming his party’s commitment to weaker sections, Modi said states with maximum population of Dalits, tribals and OBCs have elected BJP governments.
Modi, who earlier in the day paid glowing tributes to Jayaprakash Narayan in Delhi, said it was happy coincidence that he could lay the foundation stone for the Ambedkar Memorial 113th birth anniversary of the socialist leader. He expressed satisfaction that leaders of various Dalit parties came together on a single platform on the occasion.
Modi said trees from all states should be planted at the memorial where people from villages would come and find peace.
However, the Shiv Sena, BJP’s ally in the state and at the Centre, boycotted all of Modi’s functions in the city over a “slight” to its president Uddhav Thackeray, who was invited too late. The boycott is likely to hit the working of the Devendra Fadnavis-led state government, which has 10 Sena ministers and is functioning with the support of 63 Sena MLAs.
Apart from chief minister Fadnavis, Modi also lauded the work being done by his own Cabinet colleagues from Maharashtra, Nitin Gadkari and Suresh Prabhu.
(With inputs from PTI)