The BJP on Monday underlined the government's measures for the development of dalits and dubbed Rahul Gandhi a "political vulture" out to seek "advantage" after the Congress chief blamed the ruling party for the community's plight.
Amid protests by dalit groups and the opposition accusing the Modi government of working against the community's interests, Union minister Thawarchand Gehlot and Arjun Ram Meghwal, both Dalits, sought to turn tables on the Congress over its treatment of B R Ambedkar, an icon of the Scheduled Castes.
Their attack on Congress chief Rahul Gandhi came following his remarks that it was in the DNA of the RSS and BJP to keep Dalits at the lowest level in the Indian society.
Meghwal accused Gandhi of attacking the DNA of Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others. He claimed that as Modi came from a backward caste, the Congress leader could not digest it.
"Speaking of DNA, it is imperative to remind the nation what Rahul Gandhi's DNA is about - humiliated Babasaheb repeatedly. Ensured the defeat of Babasaheb, not once but twice. Did not give a Bharat Ratna to Babasaheb. Did not even give space for Babasaheb's portrait in Parliament," he said.
Social welfare and empowerment minister Gehlot underlined the Modi government's commitment to the community's welfare.
The BJP leaders' remarks came on a day violent protests by dalit groups against a Supreme Court verdict on a law on atrocities against the community led to at least four deaths.
While past government used backward castes as vote banks, this dispensation is empowering them, he said.
"It has been our government which further strengthened the protection for backward castes by passing The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015," he said.
Successive governments did not put their trust in the people of backward castes when it came to lending by banks but with initiatives such as 'Stand Up India' and 'Mudra' people of backward castes are empowered to become entrepreneurs,Gehlot said.
"Our government is not only committed to protecting the rights given to SCs/STs but is going one step ahead and holistically improving their lives," he said.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was not a party to the Supreme Court decision on the SC/ST Act and "respectfully" did not agree with its reasoning behind the verdict.
Prasad also said the government has filed a very comprehensive review petition in the matter.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav said, "As soon as some friction happens, our political vultures immediately come out to extract political advantage. We expected nothing better from Sh Rahul Gandhi. All that he & his party has done & can do, is to exploit the Dalits for petty political gains."
"BJP's commitment to SC/ST welfare is unwavering & time tested. In 2001, Vajpayee government specially amended Article 16 (4A) to ensure proper benefits to SC/ST employees. In fact, it was the Third Front-Congress govt of 1997 that took away promotional benefits of SC/ST employees," Yadav said.