By Nirendra Dev
New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) There is a “sea change” in the perception by Dalits, backward class and scheduled tribes in the last two years towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) largely due to the pro-active role taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said.
“The prime minister has been doing enough to reach out to these communities. I find glimpses of (the late Prime Minister) V.P. Singh’s commitments in him. V.P. Singh was a raja and (belonged to) an upper caste but he stood by the backward classes and so Mandal Commission (on reservations). Today Prime Minister Modi goes abroad and names B. R. Ambedkar among the great individuals of India. It only shows his commitment,” Paswan told IANS in an interview here.
Paswan, a strong proponent of reservation politics, who has been also pushing the case of quotas in the private sector, said: “There is no contradiction in the Modi cabinet in enunciation of such demands.”
“The Prime Minister himself is committed to the welfare of the people especially the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes,” he said, adding: “This is clearly reflected in the policies like Stand Up scheme wherein banks have been directed to boost entrepreneurship among SC-STs.”
This initiative alone can provide jobs to at least 2.5 million people from these communities, he noted.
To a question on remarks against reservations by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat last year, Paswan said: “Everyone has said that statement was misinterpreted and was wrong. But Modi-ji said reservations cannot be done away with as long as he is alive. What more do you expect?”
To another question, he said the “lip-service” of those who flaunt their secular credentials is “always politically motivated and mean”.
“Right to life is more important. But the so-called secular government of (Chief Minister) Nitsh Kumar and (RJD chief) Lalu Prasad has failed the people of Bihar,” Paswan contended.
“Jis ma ne beta khoya hae us Ma ko kya kahogey ki aap secular ho (What will you tell the mother who lost her son, that you are running a secular government),” Paswan asked, lashing out at the Bihar administration for its slackness in curbing law and order issues and growing incidents of violence.
“Therefore, I am happy to be with the (BJP-led) NDA than to be with those who pay lip service to secularism and only bring in criminilisation in politics.”
“Look at Jharkhand (once a part of Bihar). It’s in peace. Bihar’s law and order situation is frightening,” Paswan maintained.
He also said the relevance of regional parties cannot be ignored.
“Yes, I am in touch with old regional players like (N.) Chandrababu Naidu (TDP),” he said.
“But the regional politics too have grown over the years. Most regional parties are associated with national parties. The synthesis has grown over the years and all this can strengthen the cause of federalism as is being pursued by the Centre,” he said.
Asked whether popularity of the Narendra Modi phenomenon has taken a beating vis-a-vis the strengthening in the last two years of regional leaders like Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and J. Jayalalitha, Paswan retorted sharply: “Your theory fails when it comes to election results in Assam. The BJP never had a popular face or great base there. The BJP won the elections in Modi’s name. Earlier, the BJP won key elections in states like Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana.”
To another question, Paswan said his Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is keen to contest assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh as a constituent of the NDA and so a party delegation will meet BJP president Amit Shah towards this.
(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)