'Swachh Bharat Is A Publicity Stunt'. Why This Dalit BJP MP Refused To Hold A Broom

She refused to hold a broom during a cleanliness drive.

Thanks to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, BJP-led Centre’s flagship cleanliness drive, one would routinely spot top ministers to local leaders armed with brooms cleaning public places in their quest for a cleaner India. But here is a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh who feels that such events are nothing but publicity stunts.

Savitri Bai Phule, a Dalit MP from Bahraich refused to hold a broom during a cleanliness drive on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti celebrations. Phule, who had been invited to attend the drive near Jhinghaghat said that ‘Bahujan Samaj’ will no longer hold the broom. She also added that since people belonging to the marginalised sections need employment, security and social respect such events are just publicity stunts.

“I am an elected Member of Parliament from a reserved seat. If I just hold the broom, will this place get cleaned”, she told The Hindustan Times.

Savitri Bai Phule | Source: Indian Express

Phule, who was formerly associated with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), joined politics as a teenager. She later joined BJP and was elected as the Member of Parliament from Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh in 2014. However, unlike many others in her party who usually refrain from standing up against the top brass, Phule has never shied away from making her stand clear on issues.

Here are times when Phule spoke against the party, especially when it was about Dalit rights:

  •  In March, Supreme Court diluted the provisions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to protect the interest of public servants and private individuals from arbitrary and immediate arrest. She held a rally on April 1 in Lucknow to coerce centre to file a review petition.
  • When Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for a quota within a quota for the backward classes, Phule termed it a ‘divide and rule policy’.  “They think by dividing us they can get our votes. It is a divide and rule policy. They have been doing this since Independence, of breaking the unity that Babasaheb [Dr BR] Ambedkar forged among us,” she said.
  • Phule has spoken against senior party leaders dining at Dalit homes for electoral gains. She has also alleged that during such events, food and utensils are brought from outside. The food is being brought from outside. Yet pictures of ministers and MLAs at Dalit homes are being posted and shared on social media. f they were to eat at the house of a person of any other of any other caste, would they publicise it,” she had once said.
  • During the row over the portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah at Aligarh Muslim University, Phule said that Jinnah was a great personality who contributed to the Indian freedom struggle. Her statement came in the aftermath of the controversy when several leaders from the party blamed Jinnah for India’s partition and questioned the presence of his portrait in the campus.