A political controversy has erupted over the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) decision to take out the Sanmaan Yatra to Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP's) late patriarch Kanshi Ram's native place Bunga in Rupnagar district to pay tributes to him. BSP leaders are upset at the display of Kanshi Ram's photos on BJP Scheduled Caste (SC) Morcha posters and hoardings which are dotting the entire route of the procession from Hoshiarpur city to Bunga.
BJP SC Morcha national president and former minister Sanjay Paswan would participate in the programme on Wednesday.
The BSP founder's pictures have been displayed at the centre of the 'lotus', the election symbol of the saffron party. He shares the space with Paswan, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar and state BJP SC Morcha president Dr Dilbagh Rai. BSP activists, led by state secretary Onkar Singh Jhammat, met additional deputy commissioner Harminder Singh on Tuesday and demanded the removal of all BJP hoardings which carried Kanshi Ram's pictures. If it is not done voluntarily, BSP workers would be forced to take the matter in their hands, the activists warned.
BSP leaders alleged that it was a design to 'mislead' Dalit voters. "The BJP is desperate to make inroads into the Dalit vote bank and for doing so, it is misusing our leader's name," Jhammat said. He said Kanshi Ram had founded a political party (BSP) with a different ideology, so it was unfair for other political parties to use his name. "Has the BJP run short of its own charismatic leaders that it is banking upon a rival party's mascot," he questioned.
Rai, however, said it was a national programme to commemorate great Dalit figures such as Dr Ambedkar, Jagjivan Ram, KR Narayanan and Kanshi Ram in their respective states. "Kanshi Ram founded the BSP, but he is respected by the entire Dalit community," he said, adding that the Sanmaan Yatra programme had been chalked out on the directions of the BJP national executive. He revealed that Kanshi Ram's family had also been invited to the function.
Kanshi Ram was elected member of Parliament from Hoshiarpur in 1996. His birthplace in Rupnagar district fell in Hoshiarpur constituency at that time.