BJP has done little to woo Dalits: Gautam

By Bhaskar Roy

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: Did the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 affect BJP's ties with the Dalits apart from antagonising the Muslims? Yes, if one goes by what party general secretary S P Gautam has to say on this subject. ``The date was December 6, Dr Ambedkar's death anniversary. Though the party had nothing to do with the demolition nor the date, it still got the blame for the wrong reasons,'' Gautam says.

Talking to the Times of India, the veteran Dalit leader recounted more such ``wrong reasons'' that put hurdles in the party's efforts to win over the marginalised community. The proposed review of the Constitution, for instance. ``It's true the BJP could not effectively explain, counter or undo the hostile propaganda of its opponents, branding it as an anti-Dalit party,'' he said.

He regretted that despite a host of important measures taken by the Vajpayee government and the party to give the Dalits their due, an impression has somehow persisted among the Dalits that it was basically a party of the upper strata of society.

``We could not launch a counter-propaganda,'' he admitted while pointing out that the NDA government had restored the carry-forward system for filling vacancies and promotions in services under the SC/ST quota. However, he regrets that this move was not followed up by a special recruitment drive.

Gautam feels that there is a need to give the Dalits a larger share in power. ``This is the era of power politics, every caste wants its representatives to occupy top posts at every level. The BJP should recognise this aspiration and set a few examples,'' he said.

Despite the sustained propaganda about its ``upper-caste bias'', the BJP has made it obligatory for its organisational set-up at every level to give representation to the Dalits, Gautam says. ``We should now ponder why our achievements in this regard did not have the desired impact'' he adds.

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