New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Scheduled Caste (SC) Morcha has decided to organise a week-long celebration of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on 16 February, with an eye on Dalit votes in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the upcoming assembly polls.
According to a senior BJP leader, the party’s SC unit will organise programmes at the block level in the poll-bound states from 13 to 20 February. Moreover, the party is expecting lakhs of devotees to visit Sant Ravidas temple in Varanasi ahead of the jayanti and will assist them in paying tributes.
Guru Ravidas, a 15th-century-born poet, spiritual leader and Bhakti saint born near Varanasi, is considered the guru of a large section of Dalits, also called Ravidasias.
Dalits constitute 32 per cent of Punjab’s population — the highest such proportion in any state. In UP, the community comprises approximately 20 per cent of the population and plays a crucial role in the outcome of the elections.
The Election Commission of India had earlier deferred the voting day in Punjab by six days — from 14 to 20 February — in order to ensure that devotees of Guru Ravidas don’t miss exercising their right owing to large-scale travel from Punjab to Varanasi to celebrate the birth anniversary.
‘Will felicitate temple saints’
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP SC Morcha chief Lal Singh Arya said it will also felicitate ‘sants‘ of Ravidas temples across the country as a mark of respect.
“We will also organise programmes across the country on Ravidas Jayanti. We have given directions that at the state unit level, they can choose various programmes including blood donation camp, Swachhata Abhiyan, among others,” said Arya.
“In poll-bound states, candidates, MLAs and other party functionaries have been asked to participate,” he added.
According to the senior BJP leader quoted above, the party is also expecting lakhs of devotees to visit Sant Ravidas temple in Varanasi ahead of the jayanti and directions have been issued to make proper arrangements.
“The Varanasi unit has been asked to make elaborate plans and ensure no one faces any difficulty while paying their respects,” said the leader who didn’t wish to be named.
‘Opposition trying to mislead people’
Arya said the SC Morcha has also held other conventions and programmes in constituencies that have a sizable Dalit population in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
“The Opposition in UP including SP, BSP and Congress have been trying to mislead the people by stating that reservation benefits will be stopped. This is a complete lie as both at the Centre and state level for the past several years, the Modi and Yogi governments have only come up with welfare measures for the Dalit population. They have been exposed and the Dalit community is with the BJP,” he added.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)