The BJP-led Centre had honoured Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav earlier this year with a posthumous Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian award. The party now turned to Dalit ideologue Kanshi Ram, who had turned BSP into a political powerhouse in UP after forming it in 1984.
CM Yogi Adityanath tweeted in Hindi: “Humble tribute to popular politician Kanshi Ram, who fought for the overall uplift of Dalits, deprived and exploited.” Before him, UP BJP chief Bhupendra Chaudhary tweeted a photograph of Kanshi Ram with a glowing caption that called him “an accomplished politician; a powerful voice of Dalits, deprived and exploited section of society”.
Kanshi Ram and BJP had a shared political history. BJP had thrice helped BSP form governments in UP. Kanshi Ram died in 2006, but continues to figure prominently in BSP’s socio-political narrative. His successor Mayawati has repeatedly sought the Bharat Ratna for him.
BSP wasn’t impressed with BJP’s move. It accused BJP of being two-faced, saying it doesn’t mean what it says and projects. “BJP’s ideology is opposite to what Kanshi Ramji professed. BJP needs to follow his ideals,” party state president Vishwanath Pal said.
Pal said Dalits understand BJP’s political manoeuvrings and they won’t forsake BSP and Mayawati.
BJP was unperturbed by the reaction. Party sources said it “honours” people for their socio-political contributions and this reflects its “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” mantra. “There is nothing wrong in remembering Kanshi Ramji who worked enormously for the uplift of the poor and downtrodden,” said BJP spokesperson Hero Bajpai and reminded that RSS too had paid tributes to Mulayam Singh in a Haryana event recently.
BJP’s latest move is seen as a step to expand its outreach among Dalits—a formidable electoral bloc that has leaned towards the party since PM Narendra Modi’s triumph in 2014. “This is another political feeler to consolidate the Dalits,” political observer Prof Ravi Kant said.
It is also said that BJP is adopting RSS leader Bhaurao Deoras’s approach that all political heavies irrespective of their party affiliation should be remembered and honoured. BJP has been consistently invoking Dalit icon BR Ambedkar since 2014.
“But the opposition has accused BJP of denouncing the ideas of Ambedkar. And this is where BJP needs to answer,” Prof Kant said.