‘Running out of patience,’ NDA ally Paswan puts government on notice over SC/ST Act and green panel appointment
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), an ally of the BJP, said on Friday it will join the protests called by Dalits against the government next month if their demands were not met but stopped short of issuing a threat of walking out of the alliance.
The LJP has been demanding for an ordinance to restore the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for over four months.
“We are running out of patience as no action has been taken to restore the act as yet,” Chirag Paswan, Paswan’s lawmaker son, said during a press conference.
“On April 2, agitations were held across the country. Similar agitations have been announced by some organisations on a large-scale on August 9. We want the government to bring an ordinance to restore the act before that. Our Dalit Sena will take to the streets if it is not done,” he added.
Paswan’s party has also demanded the removal of justice AK Goel as chief of the National Green Tribunal. It has criticised the appointment of Goel, one of the two top court judges who delivered the verdict in what Dalits said diluted the provisions of the SC/ST act.
Chirag has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying Goel’s appointment has sent a wrong message to Dalits who believe that he has been rewarded for his judgement on the act. “Our support to the NDA is issue-based,” the 34-year-old said.
Chirag said protecting interests of the Dalit communities was at the root of the LJP’s tie-up with the BJP in 2014. He said his party had faith in Modi but expressed concern whether the government was listening to their appeals and demands.
“Had the government been listening to us, the situation would not have come to this pass,” he said.
He, however, stayed away from issuing any direct threat to the BJP of breaking away from the National Democratic Alliance.
“We will cross the bridge when it comes,” he said when asked if his party would consider walking out of the BJP-led NDA if its demands are not met by the August 9 deadline.
“We will not take any step like the TDP,” he said referring to the ruling Telegu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, which quit the NDA earlier this year over the demand for special category status to the state.
Chirag said incidents of atrocities against the community have risen following the verdict and complaints were not being registered by the police.
He expressed the hope that the Prime Minister will take appropriate decisions once he returns from his foreign visit later in the evening. He said the opposition has been working to give an impression that the government was being “anti-Dalit” and the Modi dispensation should take strong measures to dispel it.
The member of Parliament from Jamui said if their demands are not met, then the protests during shutdown on August 10 could be much worse than what happened on April 2, when Dalit outfits had given a similar call. More than 10 people had died during the protests across the country.
The LJP, which has six MPs in the Lok Sabha, draws its core support from the Dalits in Bihar and has often switched sides between rival alliances ahead of elections. The party was in the United Progressive Alliance before it joined hands with the BJP in 2014.