BJP leader LK Advani, whose ties with RSS had reportedly strained after Narendra Modi's elevation in the party, on Saturday praised the Sangh and said its policy of not discriminating on the basis of caste had helped them win the support of Dalit voters.
Delivering the inaugural address at the national executive meeting of the Scheduled Caste Front, Advani said, "RSS never accepted caste and believed that all sections of society are equal.
"When Mahatma Gandhi visited the RSS shakha (meeting) at Wardha he was surprised to see people of different castes sitting together and having a meal," he said.
He maintained that religious conversions from the Hindu fold had taken place due to caste atrocities.
"The RSS view of not discriminating against people on the basis of caste has played an immense role in the political growth of our party," Advani said, adding that this attitude of non-discrimination had brought Dalits closer to BJP.
Advani also referred to former BSP chief Kanshi Ram and recalled one of their interactions several years back when he had told the latter that, "what cannot be achieved socially (by Dalits) can be achieved politically".
Advani had cited the example of RSS shakhas (meetings) held in Punjab to Kanshi Ram, claiming that all sections of society, except Sikhs, used to attend them.
The Sikhs too started attending RSS meetings after BJP and SAD forged an alliance.
The BJP leader has been reportedly unhappy with RSS since the elevation of Modi as the chief of the party's Election Campaign Committee.
BJP is eyeing the sizeable Dalit vote in the country with a view to increasing its voteshare by 10 per cent.
Other sections on the party's radar are Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and young voters.
Advani asked the party to gear up for elections in six states and the Lok Sabha polls.
Making a jibe at Congress, Advani said, "The amount of effort that Congress has made in the last three years to make BJP win the next Lok Sabha elections, nobody else has."
Advani said Congress has ensured that corruption, price rise, people-friendly governance and honest administration would be the issues in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
When a party worker raised slogans hailing Advani, the senior leader said, "Do not shout slogans about us. This is not required. Instead concentrate on hard work."
He said that due to the poor performance of the UPA government, the political situation was in favour of BJP. But he rued that sometimes hard work was lacking among party workers.
Predicting early polls, Advani said the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls due this year would be over by April, 2014.
"Keeping the weather conditions and other factors in mind, the Election Commission will also want early elections, whether the government wants it or not. The government may also want early polls," Advani said.
"But whenever the elections are (to be) held, you should start preparations without speculating about the time," he added.
Referring to the latest newspaper opinion polls, Advani said they suggest that BJP will win the next elections. He asked the party cadre to take the achievements of BJP governments in the various states to the people to improve the party's electoral prospects.
BJP SC Morcha Chief Sanjay Paswan said opinion polls showed 23 per cent of the people wanted BJP to come to power.
He criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his earlier remarks that minorities have the first right over the resources of the country.
"The first right to these resources is that of the poor. The biggest section of the poor belong to the SC and ST category. I condemn the Prime Minister's remarks," he said.
Paswan also hit out at the government for its latest figures of those below the poverty line, saying that Dalits were the losers now under the new reckoning.
He also raised concern over diversion of government funds meant for Dalit welfare.