Lucknow: Union Minister Uma Bharti, telling a crowd at a mass lunch in Madhya Pradesh why she wouldn't stay for the meal, described eating with Dalits as a self-purifying act but asserted that she would have to be the host.
"I don't go to Dalit homes. I invite them home and I serve them food at my table. I don't consider myself Lord Ram that anyone who shares meals with me becomes pure. When Dalits come to our house and eat with us, then we will be pure," Uma Bharti said while speaking at Samajik Samrasta Bhoj (social harmony feast) at Madhya Pradesh's Chhattarpur district.
"I don't join community meals. I go individually or I invite Dalits home. My house will be blessed when I serve a Dalit with my hands," she added. "You come to Delhi and I will treat you to a meal (addressing the crowd). My nephew's wife will cook and my nephew will collect your used plates. He will wash them. But I will not be able to sit with you and eat today."
The comment comes at a time BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh seem to be struggling with the concept of this Dalit outreach ordered by the party.
Contrasting sharply with Uma Bharti's statement, a minister in Yogi Adityanath's cabinet in Uttar Pradesh, Rajendra Pratap, compared BJP leaders visiting Dalit homes to Lord Ram.
He said the way Lord Ram blessed Shabari (a Dalit) by eating berries as told in the epic Ramayana, BJP leaders were also blessing Dalits by going to their homes and having a meal.
Another minister, Suresh Rana, went to a Dalit home with catered food, mineral water and cutlery. He claimed that he had to order food because there were so many people with him.