Social media was abuzz with speculation about why Mumbai police remained mute spectators as Dalit protesters went on a rampage in the city on Wednesday. .
Former top cops, too, have commented on how police personnel didn't show enough action. Bharatiya Janata Party insiders revealed that the possibility of a political fallout, in case the police acted harshly, was the reason behind this restraint.
"Had the police acted strongly against the protesters, the message would be that this government, led by a Brahmin, is anti-Dalit. The resultant political price that the party would have to pay in Maharashtra, indeed in the country, would be far too high," explained a party leader.
In Maharashtra alone, Dalits and Scheduled Caste voters can impact results in 64 Assembly and 12 Lok Sabha constituencies out of 288 and 48 respectively.
This would have had a national impact too and BJP, which is smarting under the close shave in Gujarat, doesn't want to take any chances in the run-up for the 2019 polls, where 130 out of 542 seats can be influenced by Dalit-SC vote.
"Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis deserves praise and not brickbats for handling the law and order situation," said BJP spokesperson Madhu Chavan. "Some forces were bent on fomenting more violence. They wanted to spread hatred, and police firing and killing would have given them the opportunity to do so. However, the administration acted wisely and foiled those attempts by showing restraint.''
A state RSS functionary, who did not want to be named, echoed Chavan's statement. "You must appreciate the CM's skills on handling the situation by showing restraint," he said. "RSS has always been a strong advocate of social harmony and it is against any conflict between the Dalit and Maratha communities. Further, RSS is opposed to hatred among various communities based on caste, creed and religion."
Congress leader BL Mungekar, who is a leading commentator on the Ambedkar movement, however, claimed that the BJP-led government went soft on protesters because it did not want to take action against Right wing forces that allegedly triggered the whole Bhima Koregaon episode.
"BJP wanted to take advantage of the divisive activities of the Right wing forces, and at the same time, appear soft on the Dalit upsurge as it feared loss of their sympathy.
People have already recognised the handiwork of reactionary and divisive Right wing forces in order to get political mileage by creating rift between the Dalits and other communities,'' he said.