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Dalit body backs Paswan as PM

By Krishnakumar P in New Delhi
February 18, 2009 18:45 IST
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Taking a cue from Barack Obama's election as US President, the National Dalit Front has said a Dalit should be made the prime minister of India and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan is the ideal candidate.

"Change is taking place at a global level. The time has now come for India to have a Dalit prime minister," Udit Raj, the secretary general of the recently-launched NDF said in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Asked if it was a right parallel to draw since Obama being from the minority was only incidental and he contested like any other candidate to win, Raj said, "You can't say that. Why then were the blacks rejected earlier? Lots of black people also had merit before Obama came along. A majority of the United States population voted for him. They did not do charity for him; rather the whites have tried and obliterated the blots of discrimination."

Asked if the front is so keen on having a Dalit prime minister, why not back Mayawati, who is a stronger option, Raj said, "We think Paswan has better qualities than Mayawati to become the prime minister. He has been an elected member of either an assembly or the Parliament for more than 40 years now. And moreover, I don't want to talk about others. Let us keep it to our candidate, and that is Paswan."

Asked if Paswan, who lost tremendous ground in the last assembly election in Bihar, is likely to get the backing of a majority of parties, even if the NDF is in a position to dictate terms, Raj said if Inder Kumar Gujral could muster support so could Paswan.

"Gujral did not have any numbers. But he managed to get the necessary support. So why can't Paswan get the required support. We think he can," Raj said.

Raj said in fact at the very time Gujral became the prime minister, Paswan was also one of the probable candidates for the post. "Just because he was a Dalit, he was sidelined," he said.

Asked how the NDF expected to fare in the elections, he said the front, which apart from Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party has the Indian Justice Party, the Republican Party of India and various other regional Dalit political outfits, has five members in the current House.

"Let's see. We hope to get at least two dozen Members of Parliament in this election," Raj said.

Asked about the disunity among the Dalit parties, Raj said that no situation is ideal and one has to make do with the available resources and prevailing situation.

"But I agree the Dalit outfits are more fragmented than any other political formation. We will have to see what we can do as things stand right now," Raj added.

On asked why not they support a Muslim candidate for the post of prime minister, as the community is more marginalised than the Dalits, Raj said, "Definitely. Probably next time, a Muslim can become a prime minister. It can be based on a rotation policy."

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Krishnakumar P in New Delhi