TRYING TO find its way back in the political sphere of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is preparing to start a Dalit outreach programme from November 11, reaching out to 8,500 Dalit-dominated villages across the state, according to party leaders.
As part of the 60-day programme, 200 teams with an average four members from Dalit communities such as Kori, Pasi and Jatavs, and including one woman leader, would spend a day in each of these villages. They will eat with the locals, interact with them, speak to them about the party’s promises and discuss alleged atrocities by other parties, especially the BJP, Congress leaders said, explaining the programme.
The party plans to reach out to these communities with the slogan “Shiksha, Suraksha evam Swabhiman (education, security and self-respect)”.
The campaign was given final shape in Lucknow on Tuesday in the presence of All India Congress Committee’s chairman of Scheduled Caste (SC) department K Raju, senior leaders such as P L Punia, state Congress president Raj Babbar and other leaders of the SC department from the state.
About why these 8,500 villages were identified, Punia, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP, said these are places with more than 500 Dalit voters each. Of these, around 7,000 villages have more than 1,000 Dalit voters each, and the teams would work simultaneously to present the party’s point of view among the locals, he said.
“The issues would be part of our manifesto for the 2017 Assembly elections,” Punia said.
Over the next few days, members of these 200 teams will undergo training on issues and agenda of the party, and will then be asked to identify one house in each village, which would not only act as a host to the team but would also act as a “Congress point person” in that village.
Stating that reaching out to Dalits is “not new for the Congress”, Raj Babbar said now that other parties are also wooing this constituency, “Our teams will also remind people of incidents such as (Dalit PhD scholar) Rohith Vemula’s suicide, or the assault on Dalit youths in Gujarat,” Babbar said. “We will sit and interact with them in their villages.”
Punia indicated that the present outreach programme would be a low-key affair in select villages, and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will address selected divisional-level Dalit conventions at a later stage.
Of the 8,500 villages identified, Congress leaders said the maximum 486 such villages are in Sitapur district, followed by Hardoi (416) and Lakimpur Kheri (322). Seven districts – Allahabad, Azamgarh, Unnao, Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Bijnor and Barabanki – have more than 200 villages with a substantial Dalit population.
In all, the campaign would cover 36 districts of UP, 25 of them with more than 100 such villages.
While the Congress has also decided to focus on Most Backward Classes (MBCs), promising them reservation within reservation, sources said the programme has been put on hold for now, as the party plans to first start its Dalit campaign.