It is very unlikely that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will succeed in reversing or checking the growing alienation of Dalits from Bharatiya Janata Party. Of this alienation, the most palpable evidence was the surprisingly successful Bharat Bandh that the Dalits recently organised to protest against the dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
To ensure that the existing caste chasm does not widen, Modi has given a call for celebrating the birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar on 14 April with unprecedented fervour. A day before, he is slated to dedicate the new Ambedkar memorial at Delhi’s 26, Alipur Road to the nation. In what has increasingly become his signature style, Modi wants BJP MPs to spend at least two nights in Dalit-dominated villages between 14 April and 5 May.
These initiatives are typical of BJP’s Dalit policy since 2014 — lavish praise on Ambedkar; ask its leaders to have meals at Dalit houses; repeatedly cite statistics to show that the party won maximum number of reserved constituencies in 2014; promise, as BJP president Amit Shah recently did, that reservation will never be discontinued; co-opt Dalit leaders such as Ram Vilas Paswan and Ramdas Athawale and allow them scope to articulate the concerns of Dalits without being critical of Hindutva.