Union minister Ramdas Athawale Sunday said it was wrong to say cases of atrocities against people from the Scheduled Caste have increased under the Narendra Modi government.
Noting that caste-related violence was continuing in the country, the leader of the Scheduled Caste from Maharashtra said irrespective of which party is in power, the government should take stringent action against the perpetrators.
"I do not agree that (cases of) atrocities against members of Scheduled Caste have increased under the Modi government, but they continue to take place. No party (in power) encourages these acts. However, the government should make efforts to stop this," Mr Athawale told PTI.
The RPI leader said the issue should not be politicised as attacks on the members of Scheduled Caste have happened in the past and may continue to happen in the future. The issue, he noted, must be viewed from a social perspective.
He said the statistics from the last 10 years revealed that every year, nearly 45,000 to 46,000 cases of atrocities against the members of Scheduled Caste were registered in the country.
The BJP has been criticised over members of Scheduled Caste being attacked in the states ruled by the party, particularly the incident in Una, Gujarat, where the members of Scheduled Caste were flogged in 2016.
Mr Athawale further batted for the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the Maharashtra. However, in case the tie-up ends, the RPI will align with the BJP, Athawale said.
The Athawale faction of the RPI aligned with the Shivsena-BJP combine in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, when the Shiv Sena-BJP severed ties in 2014, Mr Athawale chose BJP over the Shiv Sena. Later, Athawale was made a minister in the Modi-cabinet.
Mr Athawale asserted he will contest from Mumbai South Central in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, a seat currently represented by the Shiv Sena. This move is likely to irk the Sena.
"The Republican Party of India does not have any representation in the Lok Sabha. I will contest from Mumbai South Central. I will ask the BJP to compensate the Sena with some other seat from their quota," he said.
Mr Athawale added that if there is no alliance then he can win the seat in a triangular contest between him, the Shiv Sena and the Congress-NCP combine candidate.