BJP sets sights on Dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh | india | Hindustan Times
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BJP sets sights on Dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh

india Updated: Apr 26, 2014 16:16 IST
K Sandeep Kumar
K Sandeep Kumar
Hindustan Times
Live Coverage of Lok Sabha elections on Hindustan Times

A-man-shows-his-ink-marked-finger-after-casting-his-vote-for-the-general-election-outside-a-polling-station-in-Parla-village-in-Muzaffarnagar-district-in-Uttar-Pradesh-Reuters-Photo

Aspiring to form the government at the Centre on its own steam and fulfil its dream of '272+' seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set its sights on Dalit votes in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

In an attempt to co-opt the Dalits into the saffron fold, the BJP is projecting itself as an upholder of their welfare this election season.

Close on heels of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi accusing Congress of insulting Bhimrao Ambedkar, the party workers are now busy distributing pamphlets in every nook and corner of the twin parliamentary constituencies of Allahabad and Phulpur to woo the Dalits who are increasingly being seen as holding the key to power.

The four-page specially printed coloured pamphlets, printed by the party's Anusuchit Jati Morcha in New Delhi, highlight the "negative thinking" of BJP rivals against its own "positive" and "constructive" outlook.

The most striking feature of the pamphlet is that its front page shows senior BJP leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Modi and party president Rajnath Singh, rubbing shoulders with none other than Ambedkar - a first, claim political scientists, by the party which till now relied mostly on upper caste voters.

The pamphlets point out that in the 66 years of independent India, Congress or its allies have ruled the country for 60 years and members of Scheduled Caste communities have been worst-hit by rising inflation, corruption, unemployment and crime.

From criticising the Congress for failing to get Ambedkar elected unopposed twice - once in 1952 from Mumbai by fielding Narayan Kajolkar and again in 1953 when Ambedkar contested from Bhandara in Maharastra - the BJP's publicity material also accuses former PM Jawaharlal Nehru of opposing reservation policy in 1961 and the Congress state government in Delhi of spending Rs. 744 crore from the SC Welfare Fund in organising the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

In its favour, the BJP has listed 17 initiatives that its governments have taken for the benefit of the SC communities.

They include claims that Ambedkar became a Rajya Sabha member from Bengal because of the efforts of Jan Sangh's Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

It also boasts of providing pre-matric scholarships to 22 lakh children of safai karamcharis.

Irrespective of the logic BJP leaders are providing for their newly-found attention on the Dalit voters on such a large scale, political scientists say its efforts are a well thought out strategy.

"The Dalit vote is crucial owing to numerical significance in UP. Dalits make up 21% of the electorate in UP, sizeable enough to decide fate of many candidates," said Badri Narayan, a noted political commentator and project director of Dalit Resource Centre of Allahabad University's GB Pant Social Science Institute.

"Though BJP leaders claim to be confident of winning a large number of seats in UP compared to other parties, they are well aware that to achieve it, they badly need votes from castes other than its main supporters of urban and upper caste voters," he added.

He said that be it the party's alliance with Apna Dal, induction of Dalit leader Udit Raj into the BJP or collecting iron for building statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, all seem aimed at winning Dalit votes.

There are 44 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where Dalits constitute more than 20% of total voters. In another 27 Lok Sabha constituencies Dalits range between 15% and 20% of all voters.

In 2009 polls, BJP managed to win only 10 seats and polled 17.5% of votes. And in Dalit reserved constituencies, the BJP's vote share was even lower at 16%.

The BJP needs a major fillip to its vote share in these 71 odd constituencies in order to win a sizeable number of seats.