Amita Verma, Asian Age Corespondent
Lucknow, 4 October 2011. The Bharatiya Janata Party is now trying to make a conscious effort to woo dalits and OBCs in Uttar Pradesh but the party does not have an acceptable dalit and backward face to project and promote in the coming Assembly elections.
The party, at a recent Dalit and OBC Sammelan in Lucknow, discounted the efforts made by UP chief minister Mayawati for dalit upliftment and promised to give dalits and OBCs the due credit if the BJP came to power in UP.
The party made spirited efforts to project itself as a dalit and OBC friendly party and cited its support to Mayawati as an example.
The BJP leaders delved into history, picked up dalit leaders like Uppaiya, Banke Chamar, Uda Devi, Jhalkari Bai, Chetram Jatav and Veeran Kori — all of whom had been ignored by the Mayawati government — and promised to give them due credit.
“When the BJP is voted to power in UP, we will include the contribution of these dalit and OBC leaders in the text books so that our children can learn about the role and contribution of dalits and OBCs in the country’s freedom movementand development,” promised Rajnath Singh.
Ms Uma Bharti, in her speech, recalled how she had convinced her party leaders to support Mayawati as chief minister in 2002. “After that, Mayawati forgot me and also the dalits,” she said.
Interestingly, the BJP in UP does not have any recognised dalit face in the party that can address and win over dalit voters. Leaders like Bangaru Laxman and Ramnath Kovid have faded into the background and so has Ramapati Shastri — once known as the dalit face of the party. Another senior dalit leader, Sangh Priya Gautam, has already left the BJP.
Interestingly at the OBC Sammelan, last week, BJP’s prominent OBC leaders in UP like Vinay Katiyar, Om Prakash Singh and Premlata Katiyar were conspicuous by their absence and it was left to Ms Uma Bharti, again, to hold the torch at the function.
A senior backward leader, while talking on condition of anonymity, said, “When it comes to major decision making in the party, it is the upper caste leaders who call the shots. We are not showpieces meant to be displayed during elections only. And it is because of this that we kept away from the sammelan. The dalit leadership in the BJP has also wilted due to the same reason.”