Hathras rape might affect BJP’s prospects in Bihar
The party is facing heat due to the handling of the Hathras rape and murder in UP and might want the issue resolved in time for the state elections in Bihar.
The gruesome gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh has shocked the nation. The blame for the callous way in which the administration and police let her languish in an ill-equipped hospital for two weeks and later forcibly cremated her body without the presence of her family is being laid at the feet of the BJP-led government in UP. And it has implications for BJP in neighbouring Bihar which is going to polls in a month’s time.
If not dealt with swiftly, it may lead to a return of Dalit unrest, affecting the party’s fortunes in the upcoming elections. Already there have been reports of many protests in the state which has 18% Dalit population. The Valmiki caste, to which the victim belongs, is politically aware, urban and educated and have a reasonable influence among different political parties.
BJP functionaries in Bihar say that this is a national issue that has captured the attention of the whole country. They say they will attempt to focus on local issues but if the opposition keeps attacking them over it, they will highlight the swift actions taken by the UP government in ensuring justice. The chief minister is monitoring the situation, they say. Already several officials, including senior cops, have been suspended. A Special Investigation Team has been formed and the matter has been taken up by the fast track court. The government has also provided financial assistance to the family, they asserted.
Opposition parties everywhere have been attacking BJP over the incident. Parties like the Congress and Bhim Army has trying to shape public opinion, especially of Dalits, in the context of the incident. Senior Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have been publicly protesting the incident. In West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress is trying to reach out to Dalit and backward class voters by speaking about the issue.
The BJP has, of course, played down opposition protests as opportunistic. Union Minister Smriti Irani accused Rahul Gandhi of being worried more about politics rather than justice. In states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Rajasthan where BJP is in the opposition, its leaders have been highlighting cases of caste atrocities and violence against women and calling out the hypocrisy of the ruling parties.