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Modi ally Paswan says perception that BJP is anti-Muslim, anti-lower caste may hurt party

Ram Vilas Paswan predicted another term for PM Narendra Modi but said the BJP would have to work towards changing its image as a group that caters mainly to upper-caste Hindus.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2018 16:43 IST
Reuters, New Delhi
Ram Vilas Paswan,Anti Muslim,BJP
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan speaks during an interview with Reuters in New Delhi.(Reuters File Photo)

The Narendra Modi-led BJP government is struggling to change a “perception” that it is against Muslims and lower-caste people, chief of ally Lok Jan Shakti Ram Vilas Paswan said, adding that it could cost the PM votes in the general elections next year.

Paswan, a central minister, predicted another term for Modi but said the BJP would have to work towards changing its image as a group that caters mainly to upper-caste Hindus.

“Whatever the government is doing, it is doing for everyone; even for the minority community, it has done a lot,” Paswan said in an interview in his bungalow, seated on a couch under a huge oil painting of himself.

“But despite everything, the perception is not changing among the minorities and the scheduled castes (socially backward classes) irrespective of the work being done.”

Paswan said the opposition could take advantage of the BJP’s pro-upper class Hindu image and it needed to be countered aggressively.

The BJP said Paswan’s comment was a “well-meaning observation from an ally” but that the party has “foiled repeated attempts of the opposition Congress party to create an impression that the BJP is losing the perception battle”.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that opposition parties have been raising a bogey of non-issues, but so far they’ve failed,” said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.

When Modi won office in 2014, his party or its partners ruled only seven of India’s 29 states. Today, it is in power in 21 of them and has replaced Congress as the party with strongest nationwide presence.

Paswan, whose party enjoys considerable support from the Muslim community in his home state of Bihar in the east, said ending ties with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was “unthinkable”.

“This is essentially a government of the BJP, they have an absolute majority. Still Modi has given space to allies like us,” said Paswan, a 10-time member of parliament who began his political career in 1969.

“Can’t even think of leaving the NDA. No one has approached me and I am happy where I am.”

First Published: Mar 30, 2018 16:43 IST