WITH UTTAR Pradesh going to polls in 2017, the state Congress is set to hold a Dalit leaders’ conclave in Lucknow on January 10, which will be addressed by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
After a day-long discussions on issues affecting Dalits in the state and Dr B R Ambedkar in general, the party also plans to come out with a ‘Lucknow declaration’ the same day, which would help form basis for Congress’ 2017 election manifesto on issues related to the community.
Sources said while Mukul Wasnik has been made in-charge of the conclave, Rajya Sabha MP and Chairman of SC Commission, P L Punia, will be the convenor. Besides Rahul, leaders like state Congress president Nirmal Khatri, Oscar Fernandes, Ashok Tanwar, Mukul Wasnik and Bihar unit president Ashok Choudhary will address the event.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Punia said: “We have proposed January 10 for ‘Dalit Leaders’ Conclave’ in Lucknow but it (the date) will be finalised only after consent is received from Rahulji, as he will address the conclave. Since he will chair the concluding session, the date will be decided accordingly…”
Sources said at least six papers would be presented during the conclave by senior leaders, which would discuss topics like ‘Ambedkar’s mission’, participation and role of Dalits in Congress organisation, what the party has done for Dalits and atrocities against the members of the community among others.
The issue of reservation and the alleged practice adopted by the UP government to demote SC officers will also be taken up. The conclave is likely to be held at Gandhi Auditorium in Lucknow.
The party has already started preparations for the event. Its state SC wing is identifying Dalit leaders in every district, who could be part of the event. “The crowd would be limited but effective. We are targeting participation of about 1,200 leaders from different parts of the state. We have recently concluded the first phase of ‘Bhim Jyoti yatra’… the second phase will soon begin after this Dalit conclave,” said Bhagwati Chaudhary, Chairman of UP SC Department.
Asked how the party was identifying Dalit leadership in 84 reserved constituencies of the state, Chaudhary said: “At present, out of 84 reserved seats, we have only four with us. In the past, candidates on most of these seats were decided at the last moment. However, this time, we are running a Dalit leadership development programme for the last seven months. A panel of names for final selection will be decided from among these leaders.”