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BJP’s Dalit outreach off to a muted start

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched its outreach towards the Dalit community of Delhi, particularly the Valmikis, in right earnest. But the results, by the evidence of a meeting of Dalit Mahapanchayat attended by BJP President Amit Shah today, are less than encouraging.

Shah attended the Valmiki Milan Mahasammelan under the auspices of the Mahapanchayat at the Talkatora Stadium. The event was organised by Dalit leader Mohar Singh Pehalwan who is trying to carve out a place for himself in the Delhi BJP. Unfortunately, the Talkatora Stadium was only partially filled leading the organizers to blame “internal sabotage” for the low attendance.

Shah, twice during his short address, noted the “badi sankhya” or big numbers that people of Valmiki samaj have turned up at the meeting. He appealed to them to become members of the BJP and contribute to the party’s victory in the forthcoming Delhi assembly elections. He said the BJP, from the time of its earlier avatar of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, has stood for social harmony. “The party has decided this time that any part of the country, any colony, especially those inhibited by Dalits and Valmikis, should not be left without BJP’s presence,” Shah said at the function.

Dalits comprise 17 per cent of Delhi’s 1.2 crore electorate. The Valmikis along with Jatavs comprise much of this Dalit population, which traditionally voted for the Congress but had moved towards the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2008 assembly elections but supported the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2013.

Delhi assembly has 12 of its 70 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes. In 2013, AAP won nine of these seats while BJP won two and Congress was victorious in one seat. Delhi, along with the 12 reserved seats, has six other seats where Dalits comprise above 20 per cent of population. Here, the BJP won in five seats.

The BJP, in its bid to draw Dalits to its fold, has constituted special cells to strengthen its outreach to the community. The strategy to field party MP and minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti to campaign was also part of its effort to reach out to the Dalits. Jyoti hails from the Nishad community.

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