TT, New Delhi, July 20: The BJP was tonight struggling to douse flames of fury ignited by a foul-mouthed leader in Uttar Pradesh and brutal cow vigilantes in Gujarat, both of whom had rounded on Dalits.
Hours after the BJP found itself under fire in Parliament over growing incidents of thuggery by cow vigilantes, the party’s Uttar Pradesh vice-president made a derogatory remark against Mayawati.
So shaken was the BJP by the backlash that it removed Dayashankar Singh from the party post and ensured that he expressed regret while Arun Jaitley condemned the remarks. Late tonight, the BJP expelled Dayashankar.
Mayawati had told the government in the evening that statements of regret would not suffice. Take action under the law or people will come out on the streets and “I will not be able to do anything”, she had warned the government.
The controversy has pitch-forked Mayawati to the centre stage of heartland politics in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh elections next year.
Mayawati found swift support from across the political spectrum, including Jayalalithaa who issued a statement saying her “heart bleeds” for the former chief minister.
The BSP leader issued the ultimatum after the Rajya Sabha unanimously condemned Dayashankar’s remarks. In the chorus inside and outside the House, the silence of the Prime Minister, who had launched an LPG scheme from Dayashankar’s hometown Ballia on May 1, stood out.
Earlier in the day, television channels had shown Dayashankar saying not once but twice that “Mayawati has become worse than a **********” while claiming that she sells election tickets to the highest bidder.
In the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley, the leader of the House, rushed to denounce the remarks. “It is highly condemnable that a political leader uses such words against a prominent woman leader. I regret the use of such words and will ensure that the matter is taken up…. I personally express regret to Mayawatiji. I associate our dignity with yours and stand with you,” Jaitley said.
Mayawati thanked Jaitley and others. She explained that she had dedicated her life to Dalit uplift and had, therefore, decided against marrying and having a family. “The entire oppressed and deprived community is my family and that is why I am called Behenji, not only by Dalits but also in this House.”
In the battle of ideas, she conceded using sharp language. “But I have never used bad language or done character assassination.”
She told the BJP benches that this was not the first time. “Your minister compared Dalits to dogs and remains in the ministry,” she said.
The news of Dayashankar’s comments broke when Parliament was agitated over increasing attacks on Dalits across the country. The immediate provocation was the situation in Gujarat.
In the Rajya Sabha, no business could be transacted as the Congress, BSP, Trinamul and the Janata Dal United vied with each other to raise the issue, forcing successive adjournments through the day.
It was during the second adjournment post-lunch that Dayashankar’s video clip was taken note of when Trinamul’s Derek O’Brien received it on his phone. “I went up to Mayawatiji and told her about it but refused to share the video with her. Told her that I would forward it to (BSP leader) Satish Chandra Mishra,” the Trinamul MP later said.
On seeing the clip, all Opposition members decided that the issue ought to be raised immediately and Ghulam Nabi Azad instructed Congress MPs not to disrupt proceedings further.
Deputy chairman P.J. Kurien and junior parliamentary affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi were intimated about the Opposition’s intent. Naqvi could be seen rushing to the officers’ gallery and asking that Jaitley be informed immediately.