MUMBAI: Even as politicians make headlines by breaking bread with Dalits, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said the political class should desist from patronising the backward community, and that untouchability won't simply go away by leaders having food at Dalit homes.
He said while Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intentions were right, reports of untoward incidents have put a "question mark" on his work.
"You can have food at anyone's house, but you cannot patronise them, like Lord Ram having food at Sabri's house; it is wrong. We have been in politics for a long time and had food at houses of many people, but we never asked anybody's caste. Pitying them is wrong, and thinking that eating with Dalits will eradicate untouchability is not right," he told reporters here.
The Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister was answering a question on whether BJP leaders having food at Dalit homes was mere "tokenism".
"Instead, there should be an effort to solve their basic problems such as (lack of) education, atrocities and development," he said.
Asked what advise he would give to the BJP in view of the "resentment" among backward communities and farmers ahead of the elections, Paswan, who heads the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), said Dalits, tribals and minority communities form a significant section of the society.
"The BJP has made the SC/ST Act stronger, and this year's budget was 'farmer-oriented' with an increase in Minimum Support Prices. The BJP is working for them, only the perception needs to change," he said.
"The PM's intention is right, but reports of some untoward incidents put a question mark on his work," he added.
On reported dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Supreme Court's recent ruling, the Union minister said the NDA government was confident that the apex court would do a rethink and maintain the original provisions.
The Centre has filed a review petition against the SC judgement which prohibited automatic arrests under the Act.
If the Supreme Court does not reverse its judgement, the government will issue an ordinance to uphold the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Paswan added.