An Uttar Pradesh minister on Friday defended her party leaders visiting Dalit homes and having dinner there, saying they do so braving “mosquito bites the whole night”, even as the ruling party’s outreach programme faces criticism from opposition -- and some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders as well.
Basic Education Minister Anupama Jaiswal said BJP leaders and ministers are visiting Dalit houses in villages to ensure the benefits of government schemes reached the poorest sections of society. She said the leaders inform them about government programmes and schemes so that they can get benefit from them.
“The ministers have to face mosquito bites the whole night, still they visit the villages,” she said.
If a minister gets an opportunity to hold two chaupals (village meetings), he wants to take four more such meetings, she added.
“They face mosquito bites the whole night still they visit and feel happy about it,” Jaiswal said.
The minister’s comments came even as the ruling party’s Dalit, OBC outreach programme faces criticism from opposition Bahujan Samaj Party and some BJP leaders, including MP Udit Raj.
On Thursday, Raj had said the Dalit outreach programme would not bring any electoral gains to the party, rather it would make Dalits feel “inferior”.
“Having nightstay and food at houses of Dalits neither empowers the Dalit families nor benefits the politicians, Rahul Gandhi is a live example of it. Instead of pretending through night stay and eating food, it would be better if politicians come forward for food, clothes, houses, employment and treatment of needy Dalits” Raj said in a tweet.
Earlier this week, a controversy erupted after UP government minister Suresh Rana reportedly brought with him his own food and water at a dinner hosted at a Dalit household in Aligarh.
Rana had rejected the allegation, saying, “The food was prepared in the village, by the villagers themselves.”
BJP MP Sadhvi Savitri Bai Phoole, however, had said politicians rushing to Dalit households to have dinner with them but ordering food, utensils and even waiters from outside is an “insult” to the people belonging to the weaker sections.
“I disagree with the trend of politicians going to Dalits’ homes. The father of our Constitution Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar was against caste system so those who follow him should not use caste for political purposes. Why only Dalit bhojs (meals) are hyped in the media and not similar events at places belonging to any other caste?” an angry Phoole had said.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently spent one night each in Amroha and Pratapgarh and held “chaupal” to take feedback on government schemes. He had his dinner at a Dalit house, which was criticised by opposition Bahujan Samaj Party.
“How can the BJP wish away the anger and bad name it has earned by going all out to crush their voice during the ‘Bharat Bandh’ on April 2 and over its stand on dilution of the SC/ST Act... these programmes are merely an effort to somehow divert attention and a drama to show they are very concerned about Dalit issues,” a BSP leader had said reacting the CM’s visit.
BSP supremo Mayawati has also questioned the purpose of having dinner with Dalit families when the government has been “adopting anti-Dalit policies”.
“First Congress leaders dined at the homes of Dalits and announced it to the world. Now, the BJP is walking its footsteps. While people think that they are eating food cooked by Dalits, the reality is that it is prepared by upper castes in their own homes,” she had claimed after Yogi Adityanath’s Pratapgarh visit.
She has accused the BJP of “totally ignoring” the welfare of Dalits, adivasis, OBCs and upper caste poor and said that organising dinners was putting them in further trouble.
“They do not care about the Dalit and backward classes but when elections come, they go for photo-ops and drama. The Congress and the BJP have proved to be two sides of the same coin. People won’t be fooled, they know the truth,” the BSP supremo had stated.
The Dalits constitute around 18 to 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s voting population and are a force to reckon with during elections. The BSP is seeking to regain its lost ground, with the 2019 parliamentary elections barely few months away.