New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan today hit out at Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, saying he had no moral right to attack the BJP over Dalit issues as his party did “nothing” for the community or its icon B R Ambedkar while the present government, he asserted, had done a lot.
With opposition parties targeting the BJP after a Supreme Court order on a law for atrocities against Dalits, he strongly defended the saffron party and praised the government for filing a review plea against the verdict within two weeks.
At a press conference, the Dalit leader and Lok Janshakti Party chief also dismissed speculation about his future move, saying he was in the BJP-led NDA and would continue to strengthen it. He claimed that it would come back to power again after the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh had recently claimed that Paswan was in touch with the opposition and he could leave the NDA.
“Nobody takes him seriously. Does he know about his future? Does he consider Tejashwi Yadav his leader?” Paswan said, lashing out at Singh.
Hitting out at the Congress over its attack on the central government on the Dalit issue, Paswan said it had done nothing for the community in its long rule and denied Ambedkar’s portrait space in Parliament’s central hall.
A portrait was put up only in 1989 when V P Singh was prime minister and while the Congress gave Bharat Ratna to many people, including actors, it did not deem it fit to give to Ambedkar, he claimed. He was given Bharat Ratna in 1990.
“Rahul Gandhi has no moral right to speak about the issues of Dalits. He should first answer why his party did this to Ambedkar… The Congress only abused him and encouraged others to abuse him,” he alleged.
Praising the central government, he said it made the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act more stringent in 2016 and celebrated Ambedkar’s contribution with a number of measures, including by holding a special debate in Parliament and developing places associated with him.
Amid reports of violence during ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by Dalit bodies, he said the apex court’s order had caused anger in the community but added that it should not cause any division in the society.
Political parties must not politicise it, he said, adding that the government had filed a review plea in merely 11 days.
He also defended the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to include ‘Ramji’ as part of B R Ambedkar’s official name, making it Bhirao Ramji Ambedkar.
‘Ramji’ was his middle name, drawn from his father’s name, and there was nothing objectionable in the government’s decision, Paswan said, adding that ‘Ram’ was part of names of many Dalit leaders like Jagjivan Ram, Ram Nath Kovind (President of India) and his own name.
Opposition parties have alleged that the decision of the Yogi Adityanath government was a part of the BJP’s efforts to saffronise the Dalit icon He also suggested that the RJD, whose chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was imprisoned following his conviction in corruption cases, might have a hand in communal violence in several parts of Bihar.
After being critical of some BJP leaders for their alleged inflammatory statements, Paswan today said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had ruled the state for over eight years in an alliance with the saffron party before their split in 2013. The tenure was known for good governance and communal peace, he said.
“So why is this happening now? You should notice that it has happened after Nitish Kumar parted ways with the RJD,” he said.
The RJD has blamed the BJP for the communal violence.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.