Irate at what they call disproportionately few reserved seats granted to the Congress by alliance partner DMK in Tamil Nadu, discontent is brewing among Dalit and tribal leaders of the party barely a month before the state goes to the polls. Some leaders are even contemplating quitting party posts.
Congress leaders from the community point out that against four seats allotted to the party by DMK under the seat-sharing formula this time, the DMK had given them 13 out of the state’s 63 reserved seats in 2011 Assembly elections.
Twenty per cent seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Tamil Nadu Assembly. “Under that formula, we got 20 per cent of the reserved seats to contest the last time. (By the same logic) we should have got eight this time,” a senior state Congress leader told The Indian Express.
According to Tamil Nadu Congress leaders, even the four seats allotted to the party are difficult ones.
In protest, sources said, 14 district presidents of the SC department from the predominantly Dalit southern TN are planning to resign. Blaming state Congress chief E V K S Elangovan for this “injustice”, these leaders claim that the second largest Dalit community in TN, ‘Devendra Kula Velalar’, has been given no seat, which will “prove costly” in the elections.
This unrest comes even as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi continues his attempts to reach out to Dalits to create a leadership space in the community. In fact, one of the focus areas of the All-India Congress Committee’s (AICC) SC department, headed by Rahul’s close confidant K Raju, is to systematically prepare a Dalit leadership at every level in the Congress party ? from panchayat members to MLAs, MPs, and even at the policy level.
Raju and AICC secretary from Tamil Nadu, K Jayakumar, are learnt to have brought the issue to the party high command’s attention.
The screening committee for shortlisting candidates for the 41 seats in Tamil Nadu is slated to meet Saturday. The committee is headed by Mallikarjun Kharge. The DMK has already announced candidates for all seats the party is contesting, making any last-minute swapping difficult. But Congress leaders from Dalit communities argue that the DMK gave Sholingur seat to the Congress in lieu of Arcot this Wednesday.
Congress sources said one Munirathinam, who returned to the party from G K Vasan’s TMC the same day, could be fielded from Sholingur.
A four-point AICC plan, prepared by Raju and cleared by Rahul Gandhi, talks about identifying and nurturing Congress leaders from SC communities.