- NL Sena
At a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is being attacked from all quarters for being ‘anti-Dalit’, the party has been banking on its Dalit outreach program to woo voters in Uttar Pradesh. The Dhamma Chetna Yatra, which began on April 24, is scheduled to cover all of UP’s 403 constituencies over a period of six months and spread the message of Ambedkar and Buddha. While the yatra is only halfway through, there are signs that it may have missed its mark in luring Dalits.
On July 31, the yatra reached Agra where a massive rally was supposed to welcome it. One of Agra’s biggest grounds was apparently reserved for the event and BJP president Amit Shah was to address it. The party expected more than 50,000 supporters to show up. Only, they didn’t. The party had trouble getting even 500 Dalit supporters to the venue, which was changed from a ground to an indoor hall at the Saraswati Shishu Mandir, a school run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Amit Shah’s visit was cancelled as well, which the party blamed on the change of venue. The real reason, however, is suspected to be the possibility of Dalit protests disrupting the event.
Even though the event saw an attendance of some 400 people – most of them monks involved with the yatra and BJP workers – the party sent out its message to Dalit voters ahead of elections in UP next year. Keshav Prasad Maurya, president of the BJP’s UP unit, attacked the Samajwadi Party (SP) which is in power in the state by saying that “when my nation is developing, my state is lagging behind”, promoting the BJP’s development agenda. Maurya’s rhetoric failed to grab the attention of the gathered crowd though.
According to an eyewitness who attended the event, BJP workers were busy clicking selfies and the monks were dozing off, perhaps symbolic of the yatra’slukewarm reception among Dalits in UP.