LJP leader Chirag Paswan said invites were being sent to SC & ST MPs from across party lines for a brainstorming session on 23 July.
New Delhi: In a significant attempt at Dalit outreach, union minister and Lok Janshakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan has decided to host all Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe MPs from across party lines for a brainstorming session on 23 July.
Almost all MPs are in the national capital for the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament, and invitations are being sent out to them, said Paswan’s son Chirag, chairman of the LJP parliamentary party board.
“We will diligently gather suggestions from each MP on important Dalit issues and will send them to the Prime Minister,” he said.
LJP’s Dalit push
The LJP received 6.4 per cent of the vote in its home state of Bihar in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections — quite similar to its vote share over the years.
But as every other political party in the country seems to be reaching out to Dalits ahead of the 2019 polls, the LJP too has shifted its focus back to its core constituency. In May, the LJP had demanded that the Centre bring in an ordinance to counter the controversial Supreme Court ruling on diluting the SC/ST Act. Chirag, the actor-turned-politician, reiterated these demands at the all party meeting convened at the PM’s behest Tuesday.
He said, in addition to the government’s special leave petition in the Supreme Court, the LJP too has filed a review petition, but this will not satisfy the Dalit community.
“We demanded an ordinance, and if that is not possible now, the government should bring a bill to strengthen the SC/ST Act. There is discontent in the community and people are planning another protest on 9 August. We need to assure the people that we are working to protect their rights,” he said.
Threat to alliance?
Asked what would happen if the government did not pay heed to the LJP’s demand for a bill, Chirag said: “This would be a matter of concern for the alliance then.”
But he added that the LJP won’t take the same “rash” approach as Chandrababu Naidu’s party and quit the NDA, despite their similar demands for special status for their respective states.
“You have resources while being in government, and there are various ways to negotiate for the well-being of the state. What did the TDP achieve for its people by exiting the government? We would recommend finding provisions to ensure maximum leverage for the state,” said the MP from Jamui.
Many reports have suggested that Chirag and his father have been at loggerheads over their stand on joining hands with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, especially after he praised Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav. However, the younger Paswan denied a rift, and said he has been on the same page as his dad ever since he joined politics.
“It (comment on Tejashwi) was clearly misinterpreted. Ever since I started my career in politics, RJD has never been an option for alliance. For me, Lalu Yadav is synonymous with corruption. We don’t negotiate with the corrupt,” he said.
On BJP’s Dalit outreach
Asked about the BJP’s initiative to send leaders to Dalits’ homes for a meal, Chirag had some advice to offer.
“The BJP’s intentions were good. However, I believe that if you really care for the Dalits and the downtrodden, you do not need to show it to the world. You have resources to make the backward socio-economically equal to others,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that I come from a place where many Dalits are still below the poverty line. I believe the Modi government has done a lot of good work for the community, but there is an incorrect perception about the government among them. It will be changed.”
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