Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday tried to placate Dalits by promising to continue with the government’s reservation policy as long as India remembered BR Ambedkar and accused political opponents of pitting the community against the BJP through propaganda.
His conciliatory remarks came at a rally in this Tamil Nadu industrial hub where he blew the BJP’s poll bugle for this year’s assembly elections. It was his first public meeting since assuming power at the Centre.
“This government has taken many steps to honour the memory of Ambedkar, which has made many parties nervous,” Modi said. “Since they (opposition parties) felt their property (Dalit vote bank) was being appropriated by the BJP, they began spreading falsehoods that the Modi government was against Dalits and the downtrodden.”
The remarks also came in the backdrop of a raging debate over Dalit marginalisation after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a student-activist at the University of Hyderabad. There has been a buzz too that the Modi government wanted to end reservation of Dalits in jobs and education.
Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who is accused of pushing Vemula to suicide, was on the dais along with colleagues Prakash Javdekar and Pon Radhakrishnan.
He underscored the country’s position as the fastest-growing large economy in the world to an audience comprising mostly factory workers from one of India’s rapidly-expanding manufacturing centre.
“We want to create entrepreneurs who will generate jobs and not be job hunters,” he said.
Modi said his government has done good deeds day after day since coming to power in 2014. “If I start telling you all this, I will have to stay in Tamil Nadu for months together.”
But the Opposition was not allowing Parliament to run and was trying to block government’s efforts to improve the fate of the common man, he alleged. “This will not succeed,” he said during his 40-minute speech, translated into Tamil by senior state BJP leader H Raja.
Contrary to expectation, the Prime Minister did not touch upon state politics or Dravidian parties, unlike during a 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign rally at the same venue.
The country is on the right track, he said, reminding people of the sense of despair that ruled the country two years ago. “Now for the past one-and-a-half years, there is renewed hope among the people.”