Addressing Bhartiya Janata Party workers on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the party should never forsake its ideology. “If we are consigned to remain in the Opposition, we will remain there,” he said. “But we will never give up our ideology. We will only live to uphold our ideas and values.” These comments come after he spoke out against cow vigilantes and directed states to prepare dossiers on them last week. Days later, he went a step further and said the government will not tolerate atrocities or discrimination against the Dalits.
“We should put a full stop to it. You can shoot me rather than target the Dalits,” he thundered rather dramatically. This is nothing but empty rhetoric. If Modi was genuinely serious about the attack on four tanners by cow vigilante groups, he would have reacted immediately. It took nearly four weeks for the prime minister to react after this horrific incident in Una. For a prime minister, who projects himself as a regular communicator on social media, this delay is inexcusable. Nonetheless, reports indicate that sections of the BJP and its parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, were unhappy with the prime minister’s statement.
The attack on cow protection vigilantes was viewed by some sections as an affront to the Sangh’s core values, one of which includes recognising the cow’s sanctity in Hindu religion and culture. Last week, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s working president, Pravin Togadia, criticized the prime minister for his comments. As per reports, the BJP fears that the VHP might use the comments against the party ahead of the crucial assembly election in Uttar Pradesh next year.
In the past, the BJP has openly supported cow vigilante groups. But ever since the incident in Una, where four Dalit tannery workers were mercilessly beaten by cow vigilantes, the BJP has been walking a tight-rope. For over two years, Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have been trying to lure Dalits into the BJP’s fold. Una undermined this strategy overnight, as is evident from the poor response to the yatra that a clutch of Buddhist monks had organised to garner support for Modi in Uttar Pradesh. Punjab, which also goes to the polls next year, has the largest share of Dalits in its population at 31.9 percent. With the burgeoning presence of the Aam Aadmi Party, the BJP is trying to regain a foothold.