Uttar Pradesh Education Minister Anupama Jaiswal on Friday drew criticism for saying that ministers are visiting Dalit homes even after being bitten by mosquitoes all night, ANI reported. Jaiswal made the comment in defence of party colleague Suresh Rana, who had visited a Dalit villager’s home but purportedly brought food and cutlery from outside, NDTV reported.

“Ministers go to these people’s houses and are bitten by mosquitoes all night,” Jaiswal said. “Most importantly they [the ministers] feel good by the experience. If someone has been assigned two places, he says no, I want to go to four. Thus when there is satisfaction in work, it empowers us. Even I am doing more houses than allotted to me.”

Jaiswal said the Adityanath-led government’s outreach to the Dalit community was being implemented very well.

Later in the day, the minister claimed she made the remark about mosquitoes when asked whether the BJP leaders used air conditioners and coolers to keep away the insects when they visit Dalit homes. “I said it’s not true. We live in the same condition as the do, even if mosquitoes bite us,” she added.

Controversy surrounding the Dalit outreach programme

Rana has denied claims that his Dalit host was not intimated about his visit and said that the meal was prepared in the village itself, ANI reported. “I received a lot of affection,” Rana said. “The food was prepared in the village itself, some people are trying to unnecessarily create issues, such people can’t stand development.”

Jaiswal’s comments come after her party colleague Rajendra Pratap Singh, reportedly compared Ram’s visit to Shabari, as described in the epic Ramayana, with the concept of “purifying” Dalits, NDTV reported.