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BJP readies counter as Congress discusses alliance with BSP

BJP’s assessment is that Mayawati’s party has influence among Dalits, mainly Jatavs, in the area bordering Uttar Pradesh.

Sep 04, 2018, 07.54 AM IST
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The possible tie-up between Congress and BSP ahead of the forthcoming Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh is a cause of concern for the BJP as it is likely to consolidate the Dalit votes behind the combine, denting the saffron party’s prospects in roughly 25 seats bordering Uttar Pradesh.

BJP is planning its strategy to counter this challenge on the plank of development, the work done by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in the three terms, especially in the rural areas and among farmers.

BJP chief Amit Shah has made overtures to the Dalits in the state.

He had attended a Simhasta Kumbh mela in May 2016 where he took a holy dip with Dalit saints and dined with them.

The ruling party is also in touch with some Dalit leaders, including those who have been lawmakers, affiliated with BSP and they may jump ship, sources said. Both BJP and BSP do not have any prominent Dalit face in Madhya Pradesh.

“BSP chief Mayawati has been out of power for six years now. She is no longer the Mayawati of yesteryears and is no longer the political threat she once was,” a BJP leader said.

BJP’s assessment is that Mayawati’s party has influence among Dalits, mainly Jatavs, in the area bordering Uttar Pradesh. This Bundelkhand region also has a sizable Dalit population. It is unlikely that the Congress-BSP alliance will impact the BJP in the Malwa region, close to Maharashtra. BSP has failed to make inroads among Dalits in Maharashtra and Mahars from the state do not support it.

Though MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is an OBC leader, he has tried to reach out to various caste groups and sections of society. He has also tried to send across a message to the weaker sections by inducting faces from the lower castes in his last cabinet reshuffle.

“Chouhan’s connectivity with the people is incomparable. Moreover, caste is not as dominant a factor in MP as it is in say Bihar or Uttar Pradesh,” the BJP leader said.

BJP has mainly focused on the OBC and upper caste voters in Madhya Pradesh. Its three chief ministers—Uma Bharti, Babulal Gaur and Chouhan—all belong to the backward castes. One drawback of this is that the party does not have a credible Dalit face.

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