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Amit Shah leads the way as BJP takes fight for Dalit votes to Mayawati memorials

BJP national president Amit Shah, chief minister Yogi Adityanath and other senior leaders paid homage to Jyotiba Phule at his statue at Lucknow’s Samta Mulak crossing on Wednesday

india Updated: Apr 11, 2018 22:05 IST
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Lucknow, Hindustan Times
BJP,Maywati,Dalit votes
BSP supremo Mayawati addresses a press conference at her residence in Lucknow. (PTI FILE)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday took the fight for the Dalit votes to the memorials built by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati during her stint as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2007 to 2012.

BJP national president Amit Shah, chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP state unit president Mahendra Nath Pandey and other senior leaders paid homage to Dalit icon Jyotiba Phule on his 191th birth anniversary by offering floral tributes at his statue at Lucknow’s Samta Mulak crossing.

BJP leaders had so far been avoiding visits to Dalit memorials and parks constructed by Mayawati.

These memorials had remained the exclusive domain of BSP leaders and workers who used to visit them on the death and birth anniversaries of Dalit icons. The BJP, the SP, the Congress and the RLD, meanwhile, used to confine such events to their party offices.

“By organising the birth anniversary programme of Phule at Samata Mulak crossing, the BJP has not only surprised the BSP but also succeeded in sending a message to the Dalits that they will not hesitate in adopting the Dalit memorials and parks built by Mayawati to get their support,” said RK Gautam, a Dalit activist.

Ironically, during Mayawati’s earlier stint in 1995, the BJP leaders had launched a movement to protest the construction of Parivartan Crossing in Lucknow’s Hazratganj area and the installation of idols of Dalit icons there.

The BJP had threatened to launch a statewide movement over the BSP government’s decision to install the statue of Dravida movement ideologue RV Ramasamy Naicker, who was popularly known as Periyar.

Since the BJP was extending support to her government, Mayawati buckled under pressure and scrapped plans to install the statue.

The fight for Dalit votes is going to heat up in the coming days as the BSP has planned a statewide programme on the birth anniversary of Ambedkar.

Mayawati has mandated participation for party leaders and workers in programmes at the memorials.

“Rebellion by four Dalit MPs -- Savitri Bai, Ashok Dohrey, Chhotelal Kharwar and Yashwant Singh --had shaken the BJP. The BJP leaders visiting memorials and statues of Dalit icons is only a damage control exercise,” said RK Mishra,a political observer.

“Aware that the BJP making inroads into Dalit votes had cost Mayawati dearly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well as the 2017 assembly elections, the BSP will do all to counter the BJP strategy for 2019 Lok Sabha election,” he said.

Mayawati has already launched an attack on the BJP governments — both at the centre and the state — on the sharp rise in cases of atrocities on Dalits.

Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath as anti-Dalit, Mayawati had alleged that the reservation policy for the Dalits in government jobs had been made ineffective. She also charged the Yogi government with harassing Dalits who participated in the Bharat Bandh on April 2.

To counter the attack by Mayawati, the BJP directed its leaders to spend a night in the Dalit-dominated villages and launch a ‘Gram Swaraj’ drive in Dalit villages on the birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ambedkar (April 14).

The government has also directed officials to provide free power connections to Dalit households. It has also asked officials to speed up the process of alloting houses to Dalits under the Prime Minister’s housing schemes and provide new ration cards to people below the poverty line.

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 18:55 IST