Thursday, February 18, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Gadkari includes Dalits in BJP's agenda

Indo-Asian News Service
Indore, February 17, 2010
First Published: 16:35 IST(17/2/2010)
Last Updated: 17:08 IST(17/2/2010)

Gadkari includes Dalits in BJP's agenda

Untouchability was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)
"political commitment", new president Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday,
indicating a significant shift in strategy for the party by bringing
in issues of Dalit welfare.

Including Dalit issues in the party's agenda, Gadkari said in the
inaugural session of the BJP's national executive meeting: "The issue
of untouchability is a part of our political commitment."

Several party leaders who attended the session were of the view that
this was an indication that the BJP was no longer content to be tagged
as a party of middle class urban voters.

"We need to expand our base. Dalits are an important constituency and
a neglected one too. No national party has taken up their cause in big
way on sustained basis. We are going to do that in days to come," a
senior BJP leader who attended the inaugural session told IANS.

He said the party was completely opposed to untouchability and
emphasised that the focus on Dalit issues was not for electoral gains.
In what could be seen as a clear political strategy to woo Dalits,
Gadkari compared Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar with Martin Luther King

Both, he said, fought for the rights of the downtrodden. Ambedkar
played an instrumental role in bringing social justice to Dalits,
Gadkari added.

"There is a need to rise above the vote bank politics to tackle
terrorism in the country," he said, criticising the central government
for going ahead with talks with Pakistan. "These talks are being
conducted under the pressure of the US."

He added: "National security is a cause of concern."

Prominent BJP leaders who attended the inaugural session at the
sprawling tent city of Kushabhau Thackre Nagar, 10 km away from Indore
city, included former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, leader of
opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, BJP chief ministers from
Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal
Pradesh and former party chief Murli Manohar Joshi.

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