When Ram Vilas Paswan hailed Narendra Modi as a great leader of backward classes and praised him for changing Dalit perception of BJP

Last week, the nation lost one of the strongest leaders from the marginalised communities in Ram Vilas Paswan. Having served as Minister in Union governments under six Prime Ministers, working with governments of all colours, from the United Front government of Deve Gowda to the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government to the latest Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government, Paswan was one of the tallest leaders inside the house for over three decades.

However, despite his accolades and an unparallel resume as a leader from marginalised communities, Paswan had hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a man committed to the cause of backward classes.

In an interview with Nirendra Dev of IANS in 2016, Paswan had said that ‘Modi phenomenon causing sea change in Dalit perception of BJP.’

“The prime minister has been doing enough to reach out to these communities. I find glimpses of (the late Prime Minister) V.P. Singh’s commitments in him. V.P. Singh was a raja and (belonged to) an upper caste but he stood by the backward classes and so Mandal Commission (on reservations). Today Prime Minister Modi goes abroad and names B. R. Ambedkar among the great individuals of India. It only shows his commitment,” Paswan had said.

“The Prime Minister himself is committed to the welfare of the people especially the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes,” he said, adding: “This is clearly reflected in the policies like Stand Up scheme wherein banks have been directed to boost entrepreneurship among SC-STs.”

Expressing his grief over Paswan’s demise last week, Prime Minister Modi had termed it as a “personal loss.” The Prime Minister said that Paswan left a void that perhaps will never be fulfilled.