Hyderabad: With months to go for the 2019 elections, the Dalits are back in focus, at least for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Telangana, with the party high command asking its members to dig out cases of atrocities against Dalits and build a connection.
Nearly 16 per cent of TS population are from the Scheduled Castes, a major vote bank for all parties, since the state Assembly has 19 reserved seats for SC and 12 for Scheduled Tribes (ST). The BJP has also adopted the Palle Nidra campaign, where a BJP leader eats and stays with a Dalit family for a day.
The sleepover at a Dalit home was popularised by Rahul Gandhi and practised later by the TD too. The BJP is vigorously campaigning against what it calls unfulfilled promises made by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to Dalits, and the Rajanna-Sircilla incident, where eight Dalits were allegedly subjected to third-degree torture, has come into prime focus at rallies in SC-dominated areas.
Through the Palle Nidra, the BJP has reached out to 400 villages and met over 10,000 participants. During the BJP state president K. Laxman’s stay at one Venkatesh’s house in Aliabad in Shameerpet mandal of Medak district, the family served him dal, sambar, and tomato chutney, and briefed him on the problems faced by Dalits. Another campaign, called Dalit Adalat, is being held to highlight the administration’s failures, and so far, nine adalats have been held in reserved areas.
As part of the Grama Sarva Suraj Abhiyan, senior BJP leaders are reaching out to rural voters on three issues. First, to promote Central schemes, second, to draw attention to the government’s failure to make a Dalit the CM, and third, to highlight the way in which it claims funds meant for SC/ST are being diverted.
A BJP leader said, “In the name of SC/ST welfare, funds are being diverted. Even the Comptroller and Auditor General has reported it. As per the SC /ST Sub-plan Act, based on the population, the government has to allocate a budget through its ministry. The Telangana government had promised that `1 lakh crore would be spent for the community, but that has not happened.”