Both the Modi Sarkar at the Centre and the BJP is bent on winning the hearts of the Dalits in the country by any means. For that, top leaders, ministers and other functionaries of the party have started eating meals at Dalits’ homes in poll-bound states. Though the saffron party is attaching great importance to all symbols associated with Dalits, all the more reason for it is the ensuing Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
It’s happening in Karnataka, a Congress-ruled state in the south, in Odisha ruled by the Biju Janata Dal and in West Bengal ruled by the Trinomial Congress. The BJP has a greater plan for making inroads into the Dalit community in these states.
Even in the BJP ruled states, the saffron party has been trying to send similar signals to Dalits. The BJP chief, Amit Shah, who is on a tour to different states to tone up the party, has been meeting different community leaders, including the Dalit.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh was sent by the party all the way to Midnapore in West Bengal to dine with a Dalit family. Later, he also joined his party workers there to sweep a road as part of the Swachh Bharat campaign. His cabinet colleagues went to neighbouring Odisha to eat meals at Dalits’ homes and flash its photographs in newspapers and circulate them on the social media.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Saharanpur violence had created an impression that the BJP is anti-Dalit. In order to dispel that impression, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath shared food with over 100 Dalits in his home town Gorakhpur. Such tokenism by the BJP is now taking place in almost all other states a practice that the Congress leaders used to do earlier.
But the whole practice is repugnant. Does eating at Dalits’ home, demonstrate anyone’s progressive credentials — that too by those in power? A party in power is supposed to take care of social justice, food, shelter, health care, and generate employment opportunities for the downtrodden to uplift them in the society. It is disgraceful of those ruling the country – a progressive, modern nation aiming to become superpower is adopting retrograde practices that tend to suggest that Dalits and the tribal communities are someone inferior to the so-called upper class, ruling elite.
The BJP government at the Centre is now seriously considering a Dalit-tribal combine for the post of President and the Vice-president of India. Even in the past, the Congress party had appointed KR Narayanan for the august office, the first Dalit to become the President of India. Nothing happened. The status of Dalits remains unchanged. Even two decades after a “Dalit” KR Narayanan became the president in 1997, the BJP is sending its leaders, chief minister and ministers to Dalits’ homes to eat with them to demonstrate that they are progressive.
This tokenism may help the party win a couple of elections here and there. But it must come up with tangible solutions for improving quality of life of these communities, provide them opportunities to come forward to participate in the process of growth. Otherwise, our voters are wise enough to see through the game of “meeting, eating and cheating”.