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Govt image among Dalits needs to change: Ram Vilas Paswan

The Union minister said he has urged all elements within the BJP to be restrained in their speech and follow the prime minister’s example.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2018 08:30 IST
Kumar Uttam and Prashant Jha
Kumar Uttam and Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ram Vilas Paswan,Dalits,Dalit protests
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan at his residence in New Delhi. Pawan rejected the argument that there was discord brewing within the National Democratic Alliance. (Arvind Yadav/HT File Photo)

Union minister and veteran Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan has said that the Narendra Modi government suffers from a “perception” problem that is insensitive to Dalits and has one year to change this through a series of actions and better publicity.

In an interview to Hindustan Times, Paswan, a key National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituent, has urged all elements within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to be restrained in their speech and follow the prime minister’s example.

Paswan said that former prime minister VP Singh had managed to change his image of a feudal lord to a leader of the grassroots within nine months. “For this government, one year is left. We can change the perception of the young in the Dalit community,” he said, outlining a series of steps the government should take -- creating model villages of Dalits, getting reservations for Dalits in the private sector, giving land to landless Dalits, introducing reservations in promotion, and creating an all-India service that would ensure the representation of Dalits in the judiciary.

Terming the Bharat Bandh of April 2 a “natural expression of Dalit anger” in response to a Supreme Court order that allegedly diluted the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Paswan said it turned violent only when other political parties jumped in. He said that the government did what it could do to file a review petition promptly, but suggested that a stronger signal from the top would have helped. “The social justice minister, Thawar Chand Gehlot, said it many times. But..when PM says, it sends one signal; when Amit Shah says it, a certain signal goes.”

Read | SC/ST Act to remain intact, no one can abolish it, says Ram Vilas Paswan

Asked what advice he would give to BJP leaders to correct the image, Paswan said: “Work without antagonising anyone. There is lava inside. When it comes out slowly, the volcano doesn’t erupt. But if you suppress it, then it becomes an active volcano.”

Older Dalits may have been willing to live with oppression, but said, referring to his son’s generation: “The Chirag Paswan generation is not ready to accept it. People ask why is there a protest on smaller issues? Because the young Dalit want a life of respect.” Paswan emphasised that the NDA government had done more for BR Ambedkar and poor Dalits than all its political rivals. All its welfare schemes -- Ujjwala, Jan Dhan, food distribution, health -- would benefit Dalits most, he said, but the problem was publicity. “There should be publicity, better publicity. People occupying higher position in government will have to start telling people openly -- then perception will change automatically.”

At a time when the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has quit NDA, and voices of discord are emerging from allies such as the Shiv Sena, Pawan rejected the argument that there was discord brewing within the NDA: “Vajpayee government was a coalition government. The Modi government has an absolute BJP majority government. It got votes in the name of Modi...you have to accept this much.”

First Published: Apr 09, 2018 08:29 IST