Uttar Pradesh is known for its caste politics. Despite development being a key agenda for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, a dalit candidate of the party is campaigning on caste lines. Whenever he meets upper caste voters to seek their votes, he makes sure he sits on the floor of their houses and drink tea in his own steel glass.
Rajvir Diler, BJP nominee from Iglas, is not even defensive about his acts and says he is only following his family traditions. “I am the son of a Valmiki. I can not break away from tradition. Let the world change, I won’t,” he told a national newspaper. As per the age old custom, dalits using utensils at some upper-caste home make it “impure”.
Since Iglas is dominated by Jat voters, most of the other dalit candidates also show their respect to upper caste voters. Diler says he inherited his tradition from his father Kisen Lal, who was a five-term MLA and one-time MP.
This is in stark contrast to party president Amit Shah’s message of social equality that he has been campaigning about. Shah had recently taken part in a sit-down lunch with dalits across Uttar Pradesh to put forth his message.
Not just Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also on many ocassions extended an olive branch towards dalits. In August 2016 when instances of attacks on dalits had come to light, Modi had said that no one has the right do ill-treat our “dalit sisters and brothers” adding that discrimination between people is not acceptable.