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Dalit Dhaba: A new trend in BJP politics

Reports about political parties having food at Dalit homes have been grabbing headlines but their intention behind it remains questionable. BJP leaders are trying their best to woo the Dalit voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and have food with them but it merely turns into a photo-op event. Dining at Dalit homes is a cheap gimmick adopted by the political parties to mislead the backward caste community and gain publicity. Parties hire their own caterers, rent utensils and even deploy their own people to serve meals as Dalits are asked to keep a safe distance from these events. Through this act, parties are only deceiving Dalits and the real objective of abolishing caste discrimination takes a back seat.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS) President and MP Raju Shetti said, “By having meals with Dalits, leaders are trying to do ‘Nautanki’ to convey people that they are following the ideology of Shahu, Phule, and Ambedkar. They ordered food and chairs from outside. It is merely a political stunt. Instead of indulging in nautanki, leaders should resolve the problems faced by the Dalits. Dalits are deprived of educational facilities and they are working as labourers in the unorganised sector.”

Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister Suresh Rana stirred up a controversy after visiting a Dalit’s home and having food made by a caterer instead of home cooked food. Last week, Rana visited Rajnish Kumar’s residence in Lohgarh, Aligarh district but the food was ordered from the caterer. Even arrangements for mineral water and plates were made for Rana. On the other hand, no food was cooked at Kumar’s house as he and his family had gone outside. Whereas, Rana refuted all the allegations made against him as baseless and said that the food was ordered from a caterer as 100 people had accompanied him. Thus, political parties have started a trend of having a lavish meal at Dalit homes but nobody is bothered about their welfare.

Social activist Medha Patkar expressed that leaders are indulging in this act with an eye on the election. “By eating at Dalits’ homes, politicians are trying to convey that they don’t believe in casteism but they always indulge in caste-based politics. They don’t try to address the problems faced by the Dalits. Leaders are insulting the Dalits by ordering food from caterers. Instead of having food at Dalits home, they should provide them employment opportunities,” she said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been known for having food at Dalit homes. Samajwadi Party leader Mayawati had passed comments against Rahul without mentioning his name and said that earlier too ‘one political leader’ used to dine at the homes of Dalits, but always carried with him a “Bisleri bottle”. Instead of having meals with Dalits, it would be better to provide them employment, food, and better healthcare facilities.

Congress MLA Praniti Shinde stated, “It’s a ploy of the BJP leaders to mislead the voters. They are not bothered about the welfare of the Dalits. They are having meals at the homes of Dalits with an eye on the election. We don’t have any expectations from this government.”

On May 1, Union Minister Uma Bharti had raked up a controversy for not having meals with Dalits at a function organised near Dadri village. The BJP leader stated that she was not the Lord Rama who would purify people by consuming food with them. Subsequently, she had tendered an apology for the same. In May 2016, BJP President Amit Shah dined at the home of Girija Prasad Bind in Jogiyapur village of Varanasi. He received flak from Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav who stated that leaders from his party don’t indulge in “such drama”.

BHIM army spokesperson Vijay Kamble said, “Before election, politicians do visit homes of Dalits. Since we are aware that there is a sizeable number of Dalit population in India, hence they are trying to woo them for votes.”

“Leaders are representatives of people and they should resolve the problems faced by them. Time has come to abolish the caste system. Instead of indulging in caste-based politics, leaders should work for the upliftment of Dalits,” he added.

Political parties often talk about providing better employment opportunities to the Dalits, but once they get elected they fail to fulfil the promises made by them. Atrocities against Dalits are increasing in various parts of the country but no step is taken by the government to take action against the accused. Parties talk about uplifting the Dalits but they merely indulge in lip-service and visit their homes for having meals. With the advancement of media and information technology, masses are aware of the truth as they know that politicians are only visiting Dalit houses for gaining publicity.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was always against caste system but today’s politicians are using caste for deriving political mileage. Meanwhile, BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule criticised BJP leaders for visiting Dalits homes, dining with them and sharing those photos on social media. She also questioned that how many BJP leaders had invited Dalits to their houses for having meals. Phule called for the empowerment of Dalits by providing them better amenities instead of political parties dining with them.

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