While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met the Saharanpur violence victims two days ago, his party still seems to be in two minds over the extent to which they want to raise the issue that included clashes between the Dalit and Thakur communities. In the past, the Congress had been proactive in taking up Dalit issues, taking out a Bhim Jyoti Yatra across the state before elections, touching Dalit-dominated villages and talking about empowerment. However, ever since Rahul’s visit, the party has largely handed over responsibility of handling the matter to local party leader and former MLA Imran Masood, who had made the headlines in 2014 when he had threatened to “chop” Narendra Modi “into pieces”.
“We cannot say much but even during Rahul Gandhi’s visit, Imran Masood was with him. Leaders who do not have personal stake in the region should be active. Usually, former MPs accompany Rahul Gandhi when he visits Uttar Pradesh but they were also missing from the picture here. We strongly believe that the party should come out strongly on the issue but there seems to be a confusion over the decision,” said a senior state party leader. Sources in the party attributed the confusion to the realisation that despite Congress’ best efforts to attract Dalit voters, they had shifted allegiences to BJP completely, due to which there was indecision over whether the party should pursue the Saharanpur violence issue further or abandon it post Rahul’s visit.
Asked why they were not taking up the Saharanpur incident aggressively, Satyadev Tripathi, senior state spokesperson of the party said, “Imran Masood is undertaking activities in the region and holding panchayats for harmony. He is also senior vice-president of the state unit and thus is acting as the party’s representative there.”
Rahul was on Saturday prevented from visiting the caste violence-hit Shabbirpur village. He was forced to stop at a dhaba, where he met some victims. BSP chief Mayawati had visited Shabbirpur village last week. The RSS and BJP too have been holding peace meetings with Dalit and Thakurs in Saharanpur.