As Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his respects to Sant Ravidas in Madhya Pradesh's Sagar district last week – just three months ahead of the state Assembly elections – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made another attempt to appeal to the Dalit voters it had lost in the 2018 polls.
During his third visit to poll-bound MP in just over a month, PM Modi performed the Bhoomi Poojan (ground-breaking ceremony) for the construction of the Saint Ravidas temple. The temple's construction, estimated at Rs 100 crore, is expected to be completed over the course of the next two years.
The temple inauguration marked the culmination of the BJP's five 'Sant Ravidas Samrasata (harmony) Yatras' conducted in the previous month. These yatras spanned 46 districts and collected "soil from 53,000 villages and water from 315 water bodies."
The path to political dominance in MP goes through securing the support of Dalit and tribal voters, with Sant Ravidas wielding significant influence over the Dalit community, which constitutes around 16 percent of the state's population.
His followers constitute the largest segment within this demographic. In the 2018 elections, the BJP won 18 out of the 35 seats reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community, while Congress secured 17 seats – a 13-seat increase from the 2013 elections.
Earlier in 2023, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan organised a 'Sant Ravidas Mahakumbh' and announced a special pilgrimage train to take his disciples to his birthplace in Varanasi.