Lucknow: Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Saturday described the controversy over the portrait of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as unnecessary and suggested it could be removed keeping in mind "public sentiments".
"The portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah was installed before independence in the AMU and so there is nothing wrong in it, but it can be removed if the public sentiments are against it," the minister of state for social justice told the media in Lucknow.
Violence had taken place in the AMU campus, after the varsity students objected to the protests by right-wing group Hindu Yuva Vahini on the campus, demanding the removal of Jinnah's portrait from the students' union office.
On the BJP leaders visiting Dalit houses and sharing meal with them, Athawale said, "Although having dinner will not benefit Dalits, but this is a good initiative for strengthening relations between Dalits and upper castes."
Asked about the Supreme Court's recent ruling that allegedly diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the minister said he would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring an ordinance on this issue.
"The law (SC/ST Act) was enacted by the Parliament... The government has submitted a review petition and, if the need arises, I will request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring an ordinance for the purpose," the Union minister said, adding that 90 per cent cases of atrocities against Dalits were true.
The leader of the Republican Party of India (A) said his party wanted to contest 30 seats in the Karnataka Assembly polls and support the BJP on the remaining.
He said his party would back the BJP candidates in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and try to bring Dalit votes under NDA kitty. The SP-BSP alliance will have no impact in the elections, Athawale said.
Condemning the recent incidents of BR Ambedkar statues being vandalised in the state, he said the state government needs to take strict action. "It is an effort to defame the Yogi government," he added.