Where are the BJP’s Dalit leaders?

New Delhi(dna): The BJP has been trying to reach out to Dalits, but there seems to be a muted resentment within the party on their inadequate representation in the team of national office-bearers while “outsiders” from the community entered the NDA fold.

When BJP president Amit Shah filled the vacancies in his team of office-bearers recently and allocated organisational responsibilities, it turned out there was no Dalit among the party general secretaries, vice-presidents and secretaries.

This has come as a surprise to the Dalit leaders in the party, who were expecting that Thawarchand Gehlot and Ramshankar Katheria — two former office-bearers who were inducted into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers last year would be replaced with members from the scheduled caste community. Besides, the BJP had managed to wean away large chunks of the dalit vote from the BSP and Congress during the Lok Sabha elections. Gehlot, however, continues to be a member of the BJP’s parliamentary board, the party’s highest decision-making body.

According to BJP sources, the Dalit leaders in the party were feeling let down that the party leadership had more faith in ‘outsiders’ from the community than in them. A party leader said that with this approach, the BJP will have no Dalit face to project to wean away voters from Mayawati’s BSP in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls in 2017. The party was banking on LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi to win over the Dalits and Mahadalits in Bihar, and in Maharshtra the party had aligned with Ramdas Athawale’s RPI.

However, Dalit leaders in BJP refused to talk on the issue. One party leader said, “We are bound to Hastinapur”. They were of the view that it was not a deliberate move to keep them out of senior posts in the organisation but just a matter of omission, sources said. What had apparently raised their hopes was that the BJP, which was seen as an upper caste party, was focusing on the Dalit vote, antyodaya, integral humanism and celebration for BR Ambedkar’s anniversary,

“There is a feeling in BJP that the community changed political affiliations and has not remain committed,” said BJP leader Sanjay Paswan, the former chief of the SC morcha, when asked why the BJP’s Dalits were missing from senior organisational posts.

The BJP had roped in Udit Raj, who is now a party MP, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Vijay Sonkar Shastri is a party spokesperson and Dushyant Gautam heads the SC Morcha.