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Congress warns Dalits against RSS's sinister agenda, tries to woo them back

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 14 July 2017, 21:10 IST
(AFP photo)

The Congress is worried about the 'increasing attempts of Hinduisation' of Dalits by the Sangh Parivar.

Dalits were, for long, a vote bank of the grand old party, but have now left its fold. And in order to woo them back, the Congress believes it will have to match the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) grassroot-level campaign.

For this reason, the Congress is organising household campaigns in certain states, trying to ensure that these marginalised sections of society are made aware of the 'sinister agenda' of the RSS and its political offshoot, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Subsuming the Dalit agenda

“I think we have to match the kind of grassroots-level campaigns that these organisations are putting in place. They are literally keeping RSS workers in every village, visiting their houses, talking to them, and distributing pamphlets. There is a kind of a solid carpet bombing that they are trying to do. Unless we match them with the same kind of effort, it is not possible for us to stop the Hinduisation of this marginalised section,” said K Raju, chairperson of the Congress's Scheduled Castes Department.

Raju, who was also the chairperson of the National Advisory Council and considered close to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, said the party is worried about the RSS and BJP's agenda subsuming the Dalit agenda under the broader umbrella of Hinduisation.

According to him, “Dalits would no longer be seen as victims of atrocities or victims of discrimination, so their pain will be totally left unnoticed. It will be serious setback to the community. If they begin to be counted as Hindus, they won't get anything. They still won't get entry to temples. It's only a facade that the BJP and RSS are creating.”

Congress is worried about RSS and BJP's agenda subsuming Dalit agenda, says its SC dept chief K Raju

He went on to add how the Congress can no longer afford to rely on broader messages, and needs to knock on the doors of the people and make them understand the real motive of the right-wing forces. He claimed Rahul Gandhi has a clear plan of action on the challenges the party is facing, particularly the drifting away of SC/STs and minorities.

He said the Gandhi scion was certain that their drift away from the Congress should be be blamed on the Congress's inability to meet the aspirations of the second generation of Dalits and minorities.

It is in this context that Raju said: “Unless we really understand what are the aspirations of the current generation of Dalits, minorities and Adivasis, we do not expect them to continue to be our vote bank.”

According to him, the realisation that the party can no longer hold on to the marginalised sections as mere a 'vote bank', and respond to their new aspirations, is a game changer. “That is why Rahulji is talking about providing leadership opportunities to Dalits and putting in place a framework to address their needs. That way, the Congress has really understood the ground realities sincerely, and is trying to respond to them,” Raju claimed.

Criticising Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and Dalit icon Mayawati for not securing the political and economic empowerment of the community, Raju said even her supporters had now realised that she had not been able to take their agenda beyond a certain point.

“Moreover, except for Mayawati, there are no other leaders in BSP that have been promoted by her. Whereas, when it comes to the Congress, they have been able to see that significant efforts are being made towards developing leaders from marginalised sections,” the former bureaucrat said, while claiming that the Congress had clarity on how to economically empower these sections.

In UP, BJP & allies won 75 of the 85 reserved seats, signalling a shifting of Dalit vote from BSP

He claimed that BSP followers were now looking at the Congress as an alternative, though admitting that the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election results did not firmly establish it.

In the polls, a large number of Mayawati's supporters seemed to shift allegiance to the BJP, leading to an overwhelming majority for the saffron party. The BJP won 69 of the 85 reserved seats, while its allies won six more, clearly reflecting that the Dalits overwhelmingly voted for the NDA.

Observers pointed out that the Modi wave, and BJP president Amit Shah's carefully crafted strategy of allotting party posts to a large number of Dalits and OBCs, paid handsome dividends.

However, Raju is still hopeful. He believes that this vote bank will come back to the Congress, for which efforts are already being made. It is no secret that the Congress has put its foot on the accelerator to woo Dalits and other marginalised sections, which also reflected in the recent restructuring of the All India Congress Committee's office-bearers across poll-bound states. In these states, new teams have been notified, and the party has ensured representation from all sections of the society.

“You would find that in poll-bound states, newly-appointed secretaries are from Dalit, backward community and the minority communities. Rahulji is making sure of adequate representation for these sections in the party structure. It is already evident and will happen in future too,” said Raju.

Mega conference in Bengaluru

Similar efforts to woo the Dalit and other marginalised sections are also being planned for the poll-bound state of Karnataka, where the Congress is organising a three-day international conference from 21 July at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru.

Titled 'Reclaiming Social Justice, Revisiting Ambedkar', the conference will mark the 126th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, and launch the Bengaluru Declaration, which will outline specific constitutional, institutional and policy responses to concerns of equity, human rights, freedom and democracy.

American human rights advocate Martin Luther King III will be the chief guest at the conference, which will host 83 international, 149 national and 80 state-level speakers, including academics, activists and policy makers.

Speaking to Catch, Karnataka PWD minister Dr HC Mahadevappa, who is also the convenor for the conference, said: “The theme of this conference is to revisit Ambedkar and reclaim social justice. Despite some milestones, even after 70 years of independence, Dalits, Adivasis and the downtrodden continue to fight for equity. This conference will rethink current social, political and economic paradigms, India's best minds will comprehensively assess the contemporary challenges and opportunities that India faces. We will do so to further deepen the promise of 'India for all', especially the marginalised and vulnerable sections of society.”

Raju said that the conference is a step forward in responding to the aspirations of the new generation of Dalits, and added: “We are also taking note of the unfinished agenda in the social equity and unfinished mission of Ambedkar. The conference will look at the ground which is to be covered on the equity front, and we will sincerely look at all these challenges and come out with a framework as a kind of a new deal for the nation.”

First published: 14 July 2017, 21:10 IST