New Delhi: If Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh was trying to defend the Prime Minister and the Central Government, he has achieved quite the opposite. He has offended and angered most, including prominent Dalit leaders in the NDA alliance and the Opposition.
BSP chief and former UP CM Mayawati, HAM chief and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, LJP chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Congress leader from Haryana and former Union Minister Kumari Selja, all wanted “action” against Singh. The AAP has even registered a police case against him.
As a result, Singh has not only found himself in an indefensible position, but has left the government scurrying for cover, especially with allies in Bihar threatening the BJP in the midst of the elections.
Little can actually be said in Singh’s favour, either in deference to his former position as the Army chief or his current slot, sources in the government said. Two children, one of them a toddler, were burnt to death when their home was allegedly set afire by their ‘forward caste’ neighbours. If such an incident does evoke simple, humane response, questions are bound to be raised. That the children belonged to a Dalit family, made it worse.
An angry Manjhi called up a top BJP leader to ask how can such a gruesome incident be insultingly trivialised as “stone throwing at stray dogs”.
BSP chief Mayawati, who is rarely heard these days except when she attends Parliament, reacted sharply, demanding sacking of Singh by the Prime Minister as also stringent police action.
That Singh’s off-the-cuff remarks only heightened the atrocity of the incident, the deep urban disconnect and insensitivity, need little debate. So Mayawati went to make a political point that “neither Dalits nor Muslims are safe under the BJP rule” and termed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the grief-stricken family as a “drama”.
Kumari Selja, a Dalit leader, sought an apology from the Prime Minister and “action” against Singh. “It’s time that Prime Minister also revealed his ‘Maan ki Baat’ on this growing incidents of violence and intolerance and attack on Dalits and minorities,” she said, while seeking Singh’s resignation.
But what was really bothersome for the BJP was the reaction from its Bihar allies. “If V K Singh has compared the incident of burning of Dalits with (stoning of) dogs, the PM should take cognisance of it and initiate appropriate action against him,” Manjhi said.
The discomfort among the NDA allies was evident from the comments made by Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha, both of whom advised the BJP to rein in ministers making “insensitive remarks”.
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