A file photo of opposition leaders, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, protesting in New Delhi over atrocities against the Dalits. Photo: PTI
A file photo of opposition leaders, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, protesting in New Delhi over atrocities against the Dalits. Photo: PTI

Congress, BJP step up efforts to reach out to Dalits

In an effort to reach out to the Dalit community, the BJP leadership has decided to observe the birth anniversary of Jyotirao Phule, the backward caste social reformer, on 11 April as Samta Divas

New Delhi/Mumbai: A day before the Congress party’s nation-wide fast on Monday to promote social harmony and protest against the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that the opposition was trying to politicize the issue.

In an effort to reach out to the Dalit community, the BJP leadership has decided to observe the birth anniversary of Jyotirao Phule, the backward caste social reformer, on 11 April as Samta Divas and organize various events on 14 April, the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar.

During a meeting of all members of Parliament (MPs) of his party last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed BJP leaders to inform Dalits about the various programmes of the government that work for the development and upliftment of the community. Modi also asked senior Union ministers, MPs, and ministers in BJP-ruled states to visit the Dalit community in the over 20,000 villages where the members of the community have a substantial presence, according to senior BJP leaders.

The outreach programmes of both BJP and Congress come in the backdrop of widespread protests by Dalits against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act last week.

“Our party is working to strengthen the SC/ST Act. This is being opposed by Rahul Gandhi. The opposition is indulging in politics in the name of Babasaheb Ambedkar," said Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday. During a visit by BJP president Amit Shah to Mumbai last week, the party unveiled a major social outreach which includes Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBC) at the party’s national foundation day.

The BJP leadership wants its public representatives to explain initiatives like the Ujwala Yojana and Mudra Yojana to the Dalit community and other socially backward communities.

Both parties are trying to increase their social base before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Senior Union ministers also accused the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party of using unconstitutional means to disrupt the development work being carried out by the government for Dalits.

The Congress is also brainstorming on a daylong national Dalit meet on 23 April, likely to be held at Talkatora Stadium in the national capital. The meet is set to be attended by all the senior Dalit leaders in the party where Dalit issues will be discussed.

“What happened last week during the Dalit protests is of grave concern to us. We are looking at a number of party programmes to mobilize Dalit population in order to raise their voice. Party president Rahul Gandhi will also be a key participant in all these events," a senior party leader involved in the party organization said requesting anonymity.

Apart from this, Congress party is also holding a rally at the Ramlila Maidan in the national capital on 29 April to protest against the current political situation in the country which it said has an “environment of distrust and intolerance" particularly with respect to Dalits.

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