In April this year, three leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, all members of marginalised communities, wrote individual letters to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, criticising the party for ignoring increasing violence against Dalits. In one of the letters, Yashwant Singh, a member of parliament from Uttar Pradesh’s Nagina district, wrote, “Being a Dalit, my capabilities have not been put to use … In 4 years the government has done nothing for the 30 crore Dalits of the country.”
The rumblings of discontent within the party are not limited to these three leaders. In the past two years, a slew of members from the BJP have resigned from their posts, accusing the party of wilfully fuelling communal and casteist strife across the country. According to them, the BJP leadership’s charged statements and silence on increasing violence against Dalits and Muslims—two communities that bear the brunt of its divisive agenda—have spurred those abandoning the party.
I spoke to seven such members, from Assam to Madhya Pradesh, including former loyalists of the party, about the reason behind their departure, their experience of working with the party and why they had joined the BJP in the first place.
1. Savitribai Phule, MP, Uttar Pradesh
On 6 December 2018, Savitribai Phule, a member of parliament from the Dalit community, became the latest in a line of departures from the BJP. Four years earlier, Phule was elected from the Lok Sabha constituency of Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh. She told me that while the prime minister claims “ki agar Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar bhi aake kahe ki bharat mein diye aaraksham ko samapt kardo, hum tab bhi samaapt nahi karenge”—that even if Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar came and asked to end reservation, we will not end reservation—the party is insidiously trying to change the Indian constitution.