Patna,(BiharTimes): The much-publicised 100th birth anniversary of three-time former chief minister Bhola Paswan Shastri, who had a long association with Congress, by the BJP on Saturday turned out to be a low-key affair though the venue, Shri Krishna Memorial Hall, was packed to the capacity.
Though the BJP rising star Amit Shah cancelled his programme at the 11th hour even the deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and leader of opposition in the state Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, did not turn up. This was so in spite of the repeated announcements that they would attend it.
They deemed it fit to be in Saharsa to mobilize the party workers for the October 27 Hunkar Rally rather than be in Patna to address such a big show of Dalits.
Apart from Sanjay Paswan, the BJP Scheduled Caste Morcha chief and former Union minister, the only non-Dalit leader of any prominence present on the occasion was party general secretary, Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
Though the BJP is estimated to have got just 10 per cent of Dalit votes in the 2010 Assembly election––it was Sanjay Paswan himself who said so during his speech––after the split with Janata Dal (United) it is trying its level best to carve out its constituency, among them.
In the recent elections Dalit votes got divided among Janata Dal (United), LJP, RJD and different Communist parties.
But since the Nitish government did not include the Paswans in the list of Mahadalit castes the saffron party undertook this exercise of wooing them. The Schedule Castes form 15.1 per cent of the state population, while the percentage of Paswans or Dussadh is around 3.5 per cent. They are numerically among the strongest Dalit castes and economically considered better off than others.
As Bhola Paswan Shastri was the greatest leader of this sub-caste before Ram Vilas Paswan, the BJP planned to organize his birth anniversary in a big way, even though the fact is that the late leader was a bitter critic of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the earlier version of BJP. So like Sardar Patel, who as the first Home Minister of the country banned RSS and whom the BJP has now made its hero, the BJP took up the task of honouring Shastri.
But something somewhere appears to have gone wrong with the party leaders. First Amit Shah cancelled his much trumpeted visit. Than Sushil Modi and Nand Kishore Yadav skipped it. It is now felt that it was these two leaders, who were instrumental in getting Amit Shah’s trip to Bihar cancelled, though it was earlier projected that he will be here to prepare the ground for the Hunkar Rally.
As if that was not enough: Rudy, during his speech on Saturday, chose to contradict Sanjay Paswan, who said that if the country will have an Extremely Backward Caste Prime Minister in the form of Narendra Modi, Bihar will have a Dalit chief minister.
Rudy, on the other hand, said that the Gujarat chief minister should be seen above the caste as he is the leader of the masses and does not fit in any such categorisation.
Whether it is now a tactical shift of the BJP not to project Narendra Modi as an EBC leader can not be said with certainty yet it is a fact that by disagreeing in public with Sanjay Paswan the party general secretary Rudy did surprise many in the audience, most of them Paswans, whom the party is trying to woo.
Dalits, especially Paswans have always been suspicious of BJP and needs some extra-ordinary efforts to be lured to the saffron brigade. Paswans, in general, consider the BJP as a party in the Nitish government’s decision to exclude them from the benefits of the Mahadalits.
The absence of the BJP bigwigs from the show and Rudy’s speech did not instil confidence among them. It is to be seen whether the Sep 21 exercise will really serve the purpose or may prove counter-productive.