BJP to ask MPs to explain Ravidas demolition fallout
By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) An upset BJP top brass is likely to demand an explanation from its seven Delhi MPs over the way things unfolded after the demolition of the Sant Ravidas temple in the national capital on August 10 that led to violent Dalit protests.
The BJP has been out of power in the capital for more than 20 years and 2020 is its best bet to return to power with anti-incumbency against the ruling Aam Aadmi Party settling in and the saffron party riding high after abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.
But with thousands of Dalits taking to Delhi streets, many courting arrest and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal exploiting it politically, the BJP finds suddenly itself in an uncomfortable position. And the party's top leadership, which realised the seriousness of the matter only after the Dalit protests this week, holds its seven Delhi MPs squarely responsible.
"Had they been visiting their constituencies regularly, had they met people who visited them with their representations in the run up to the demolition, we would not have seen a Dalit outrage of this magnitude. Not that the demolition could be averted but conversation helps. But most of them (seven MPs) have been missing in action," said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
The same leader told IANS that party chief and Union Home Minister Amit Shah has taken cognisance of the matter and is likely to ask all the MPs to explain their inaction when they should have been working overtime to soothe emotions.
The temple located in Delhi's Tughlaqabad area was dedicated to 15th-century spiritual leader Sant Ravidas who is not only a Dalit icon but also holds special religious significance for Sikhs.
Born into a Harijan family, Ravidas had emerged as a leader of the Bhakti movement. His temple was demolished this month after the Supreme Court ordered it to be razed following a decades-old legal tangle over its location in a forest area.
But now the political repercussions are being felt not only in Delhi that is slated to go to polls next year but also in parts of Punjab.
The discomfort within the BJP's top leadership was aggravated by the fact that thousands of Dalits marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan to the Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi this week wearing blue caps, a colour that represents the Dalit movement. Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad too joined the protests.
Sikh sentiments were also hurt as the Guru Granth Sahib finds mention in some of Ravidas's works, with protests on August 13 in Punjab.
Delhi has a sizable Dalit population. Moreover, if the protests spill over to other poll-bound states like Maharashtra and Jharkhand with large numbers of Dalits, it can spell trouble for the BJP.
The BJP leadership is well aware of the fact. That is why its not Working President J.P. Nadda, who is handling the day-to-day organisational work, but Amit Shah himself has stepped in to contain the situation and is likely to fix accountability.
Sources also say, the fact that one of the seven BJP MPs is Manoj Tiwary, who also happens to be the state chief of the Delhi unit makes the BJP top brass wary of the state of affairs in the Delhi unit which has long been affected by infighting and factionalism.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)