BJP snubs Dalit MP after broom jibe, may not give her ticket
Savitri Bai Phule, the BJP’s Dalit MP from Bahraich, had on Tuesday described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cleanliness campaign or ‘swacchta abhiyaan’ a sham.
On Wednesday, the party publicly indicated that the rebel Dalit MP, who was first spotted and groomed by BSP chief Mayawati, won’t contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election on the BJP ticket.
“In the name of the swacchta abhiyan, they (BJP top brass) handed the broom to us. Localities already clean are being cleaned again to symbolically connect with our community which needs job. How long would it keep wielding the broom?” she had said.
She wasn’t invited to the Lok Sabha coordination committee meeting of Balrampur, Shravasti, Bahraich and Gonda that was chaired by UP BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey in Gonda on Wednesday.
A BJP leader admitted that while some party rebels were in touch with Phule, closer to the elections she won’t matter.
“She is in touch with the SP and the BSP. Some disgruntled leaders are with her. But several opposition MPs are in touch with us too. If the coalition of SP and BSP firms up, several leaders in both parties will have to compromise. These leaders have already opened talks with us,” a BJP leader told HT. Phule is reportedly planning a big rally in Delhi too but BJP leaders are sounding confident.
“Do you think she, or for that matter a handful of others, would stand a chance when PM Modi begins the campaign?” a Dalit party leader said, adding that the concerns that the party had at the moment were temporary.
Top BJP leaders had started publicly hinting that those party MPs, who haven’t taken interest in the party initiatives, may not be repeated in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In April, several Dalit MPs of the party had followed Phule in questioning the BJP’s alleged neglect of the influential Dalits in Uttar Pradesh where their nearly 20 per cent vote could swing elections. The BJP thus understandably remains cagey about Phule’s next move even as the party has embarked on a campaign to enlist two dalits in each of the over 1.47 lakh booths in the state.
“Once we have them in place, the party will then hold a meeting of all booth level Dalit cadres in UP. All booth level Dalit cadres will be around three lakh by the time the meeting is planned nearer to the elections,” a BJP leader said.
The BJP has also restored the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act to keep its Dalit vote bank in UP, but more urgently, the three election bound states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in good humour. “The BJP is desperate and it’s showing. It’s even ready to risk angering its loyal upper caste vote,” a Brahmin party MP said.
From October 5, the BJP is also rolling out a special enrolment campaign for which it has also issued a toll free number – 18002661001.
“Anyone can become a BJP member by giving a missed call on this number,” said Deepak Trivedi, the head of the party’s enrolment campaign.