BJP's PM candidate shares stage with Ram Vilas Paswan, the Dalit leader who rejoined NDA after quitting 12 years ago
New Delhi:Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, on Monday predicted a coming “decade of Dalits" and other weaker sections as he shared a stage with Ram Vilas Paswan, the Dalit leader from Bihar who rejoined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after quitting 12 years ago in protest against the communal riots in Gujarat, which happened under Modi’s watch.
Standing next to the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief, Modi told supporters at a public meeting in Muzaffarpur that the BJP was wrongly described as a party of upper castes and traders.
Modi said he himself belonged to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, but the BJP had made him its prime ministerial candidate.
“I am confident that the coming decade is of Dalits, backward classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections of society," said Modi.
The Third Front and the Congress party are hiding behind secularism to avoid questions on development, the Gujarat chief minister said.
The Third Front, a grouping of 11 regional parties, including the Janata Dal (United) that rules Bihar, that is offering itself as an alternative to the BJP and the Congress party, had failed to address good governance in its campaign for the general election, he added.
Its aim was to win the election rather than bring about development, Modi said, adding that these alliances came into existence only six months before the election.
“The NDA is growing very fast. NDA also stands for National Development Alliance. The BJP says ‘end corruption’, talks of development, but these political parties only want to stop Narendra Modi," he said. “The Congress doesn’t talk of development, and parties that are part of the Third Front were never interested in development. They have no answers."
Over the past six months, Modi has made several visits to Bihar, where the BJP has only 12 out of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats.
The real issues in the coming general election are those of corruption, good governance, strong leadership and development, but whenever the BJP raised issues related to price rise, food for the poor, problems of farmers and corruption, rival parties sought to hide behind the subject of secularism to avoid answering questions, Modi said.
“These political parties have no commitment to stop price rise, good governance and development. Their definition of secularism is vote-bank politics, divisive politics, appeasement of few and justice for none," Modi said.
Modi targeted Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, saying: “There can be no development without peace, unity and harmony. Just because the Bihar government is indulging in vote-bank politics, terrorism is growing in the state and terrorists are hiding in Bihar."
Also sharing the stage with Modi was Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha, another backward caste leader who recently joined the NDA. The Lok Samata and the Lok Janshakti have joined hands with the BJP in order to counter their main rivals—the Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal combine and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or JD(U).
Political analysts say Modi is making desperate attempts to strengthen the BJP in Bihar after its alliance with the ruling JD(U) ended last year.
“Bihar has never been a stronghold of the BJP. The party has always benefited from its alliances because it got (the BJP) votes of Dalits and Muslims. While the BJP has support of the upper caste, Modi is trying hard to get a considerable share of OBC votes in the state," said Suhas Palshikar, a professor of political science at the University of Pune.
Palshikar said it was yet to be seen if Paswan and Kushwaha would succeed in transferring votes in favour of the BJP. “I am not sure if Ram Vilas Paswan has credibility in Bihar politics any more and if they will be able to transfer the votes to benefit BJP.
“Narendra Modi is trying compensate the loss of the Janata Dal (United)," Palshikar said.