Ambedkar Jayanti: By crediting Babasaheb for his rise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a potent message to Dalits

Speaking at a rally at Bijapur on Saturday, Narendra Modi said that if a poor man’s son from a backward caste has become the prime minister of India, it is because of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. Speaking at Ambedkar’s 127th birth anniversary in Chhattisgarh’s Dalit-dominated Bijapur, the prime minister sent a befitting reply to the Opposition trying to corner the government by terming it anti-Dalit.

 Ambedkar Jayanti: By crediting Babasaheb for his rise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a potent message to Dalits

Narendra Modi in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh. PTI

By crediting Babasaheb for his rise to the highest post in the government from being a simple party worker, Modi associated himself with Ambedkar, who championed Dalit rights and also was instrumental in drafting the Constitution. Terming his government as one for the poor, Dalits, the oppressed, the disadvantaged and Adivasis, Modi assured full support in their welfare and development.

However, his speech is being seen as an attempt to assuage the current environment wherein Congress and the entire Opposition are determined to prove the Modi government as anti-Dalit.

Congress blamed the government for the Supreme Court order on SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act while Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused the government of not presenting its side properly at the apex court.

Such was the atmosphere in the country that even Dalit leaders from BJP’s allied parties filed motions in the Supreme Court to reconsider the order. In the end, the government filed a motion urging the apex court to reconsider its decision, and thus repeated its commitment to protect the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

But the violence that erupted during the Bharat Bandh called by several Dalit organisations has made BJP government at the Centre as well as state governments worrisome. The Dalit community is very angry because of the 2 April violence and the number of people who died on that day. The Opposition’s relentless attacks on the government have only added to the woes.

The Dalit organisations are said to have made up their mind to teach BJP a lesson and they are working to create an anti-BJP atmosphere before the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha. Clearly, the angst among Dalits could become a problem for the government in future, especially since Karnataka is going to polls in May. And then, there are the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Rajasthan.

If the Dalit anger rises during these elections, it could increase problems for BJP. And even though the real contest is likely during the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha, a Dalit front against BJP could become problematic.

While the government has placed BJP and Dalit leaders to the front to challenge this Opposition narrative, the Sangh has accused the Opposition of spreading lies as well.

And Modi understands this very well. He knows that if the Opposition parties succeed in their schemes, the loss would be huge for the party. He is determined to foil the Opposition’s plans. By associating himself with the Dalits, the backward, and the poor, Modi is breaking the anti-Dalit image of BJP and the NDA government.

In fact, during the last Lok Sabha election, Modi had broken through the caste barrier. Along with Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, BJP had won the support of backward communities and Dalits in other states as well. In Uttar Pradesh, BJP had demolished the non-Jatav and extremely backward community vote bank, leaving the Bahujan Samaj Party with zero seats.

The same trend was visible in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. Then also, despite all the efforts of Mayawati, Amit Shah’s social engineering succeeded. The result was BJP winning three-fourths of the seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. Though BJP was accused of being anti-Dalit in this election as well, voters from the non-Jatav Dalit community once again supported BJP.

BJP has been making efforts to this end for a while now. While on the one hand, the Sangh Parivar has been trying to bring the Dalits along by promising them equal status with its campaign of one well, one temple, one cremation ground, on the other hand, BJP president Amit Shah and other leaders are spreading the message of goodwill by having meals in Dalit homes.

In the last four years, the BJP-led Central government has developed all places associated with Ambedkar in order to associate itself with Babasaheb and his heritage. On 13 April, the prime minister dedicated the Ambedkar Memorial located in Delhi’s Alipur Road, to the nation.

But, the recent incidents and the Opposition's relentless attacks have troubled BJP. Now the prime minister wants to end this perception. The backward card played by the party is being considered as an answer to the Opposition attack.

Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 08:44:09 IST