As the Lok Sabha gets ready to debate atrocities on Dalits, with cow vigilantes targeting the community, the BJP top brass sat down with Dalit MPs of the party to formulate a coherent and united response to what is turning out to be a political challenge.

Top sources in the Scheduled Caste Morcha of the BJP said 34 Dalit MPs of the party, former Minister Ram Shankar Katheria and the BJP general secretary in charge of the organisation, Ram Lal, and another general secretary, Bhupendra Yadav, attended the meeting on Tuesday evening at Gujarat Bhavan here.

“SC Morcha chief Dushyant Gautam asked MPs to meet the members of the community and make them aware that for the first time, there is a government for the backward classes, tribal people and Dalits … that Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati took time out to go to Una in Gujarat, but have no time for the family of Jisha [a Dalit student who was raped and murdered] in Kerala, and remain silent on atrocities on Dalits in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh,” a senior party office-bearer said. He urged the MPs not to be on the back foot and instead list the various ways in which government programmes had been drawn up to help the weaker sections of society.

 “The BJP has the largest number of Dalit and Backward Class MPs in India, and that should be a reflection of the support that the community extends to the party,” he said.

The party has been worried about the atrocities by cow vigilantes in various States, and some of these outfits claiming allegiance to the larger Sangh Parivar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong statements condemning this vigilantism — at public meetings on Saturday and Sunday — is reflective of the worry in the party and Sangh circles.

RSS second-in-command Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi’s statement endorsing Mr. Modi’s statements clarified the political and organisational line. The party is to face crucial polls in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat in 2017, and cow vigilantes and an anti-Dalit image are the things the party is anxious to shed.

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