New Delhi: Reaching out to Dalit voters on the occasion of Ravidas Jayanti, BJP chief Rajnath Singh on Monday said that if voted to power in Uttar Pradesh, his party will construct a mammoth Buddha statue like the ones in Bamiyan in Afghanistan which were destroyed by the Taliban.
Speaking at a programme held here to mark the birth anniversary of Ravidas, he recalled that during his tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed, he had announced that a similar statue would be built by him.
He claimed that he had even started the process of earmarking the land for the purpose but it was not carried forward by the chief ministers who succeeded him.
The Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban who declared that worshipping idols is against the tenets of Islam.
The Dalits in India have been strong supporters of Buddhism, more so since the time of B R Ambedkar who converted to the religion with lakhs of supporters.
"If BJP is voted to power in Uttar Pradesh, we will build the biggest Buddha statue in the state," Singh said.
A Bamiyan-like high statue of Buddha is already under construction in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh. However, this work near the place where Buddha breathed his last is being undertaken with foreign funding.
Singh said he had taken several measures to help the cause of Dalits in his state during his stint as Education Minister of UP. These include filling the backlog of Scheduled Castes in teaching jobs in government schools in the state.
"Some people from my own party said this step will antagonise our votebank but I went ahead. I met Kalyan Singh, who was then the chief minister, with a Cabinet note on this issue," he said.
He emphasised the need for removing the income disparity between Dalits and other castes. "The society has to be cleansed of the poison of caste system," he said.