NEW DELHI: Amid talks of Opposition parties closing ranks in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is apparently sensing challenges in consolidating its support base among Dalits and most backward castes (MBCs).
With bypoll reversals in Uttar Pradesh, besides looming electoral challenges in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party is seeking to further intensify outreach among the electorally significant Dalits and MBCs.
BJP leaders have realised that despite the Modi government targeting Dalit households in doling out the benefits of welfare schemes, the politically sensitive caste groups could be looking for alternatives in the coming elections. “There’s a sense among Dalits in the two poll-bound states that the ruling BJP government hasn’t effectively addressed their sense of social insecurity in the face of violence meted out to them by dominant caste groups,” said a senior BJP functionary.
Incidentally, during the Gram Swarajya Abhiyan, the BJP had asked party leaders to spend two nights in villages with about 50 per cent Dalit population. “The Gujarat verdict had dropped first hints of Dalits moving away from the BJP. The recent losses in the Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls affirm the warning signals that the party needs to effectively counter the negative perception,” added the BJP functionary.
BJP strategists apparently see Dalits and Patidars in Madhya Pradesh emerging as pockets of worry which, in the face of the Mayawati-led BSP throwing its weight behind the Congress in the state, could become a huge electoral challenge for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, too, is running into the possibilities of Dalits and MBCs turning away from the BJP.
In Bihar, party leaders feel Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s passionate enforcement of prohibition has angered Dalits and MBCs, who are apparently moving towards the RJD. “Majority of those punished under the stringent prohibition law happen to be MBCs and OBCs, who are now shifting loyalties to RJD,” said a BJP functionary.