The Congress wants the Uddhav Thackeray-led MahaVikas Aghadi government, of which it is a part, to introduce a quota for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) entrepreneurs in government contracts and projects.
In a letter written to Thackeray on December 14, Congress president and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has reminded that “policies and programmes for the welfare of the Dalits and Adivasis in Maharashtra is a very important commitment made in the Common Minimum Programme of the MahaVikas Aghadi”.
Gandhi wrote, “To stimulate entrepreneurship in SC/ST communities; reservation in government contracts and projects for enterprises promoted by SC/ST professionals should be introduced.” This, she said, had been done earlier by the UPA government at the Centre and by the previous Congress-led government in Karnataka.
Cong’s newfound assertiveness
Often regarded as a third wheel in the Maharashtra alliance, Congress is now looking to assert itself more aggressively in the government's functioning and policy making. While the SC/ST communities in Maharashtra have traditionally been a loyal support base of the Congress, some party leaders from the community have complained that the NCP, which heads the social welfare department, was running away with the credit for various social welfare initiatives.
Apart from reservations for the SC/ST entrepreneurs, Gandhi has also demanded that “the budget allocation for the SC/ST communities should be proportionate to their share in the population”.
On the lines of an enactment by the previous Congress governments in Karnataka and undivided Andhra Pradesh, she has also demanded that Maharashtra should enact a law mandating “utilisation of the funds allotted for the welfare of these communities during the same financial year”.
Batting for expansion of scholarship schemes and residential schools for students from the community, she has said that the “focus may be on the schemes that can bring these communities on par with the rest of the society at the earliest”.
She asked Thackeray to undertake “rapid recruitment drives to fill up a backlog of posts in various departments reserved for the SC/ST communities”.
Concluding her address to Thackeray, Gandhi’s letter stated, “I am confident that under your leadership, the MVA government will continue to implement the CMP in letter and spirit.”
The Congress’s move to release contents of Gandhi’s letter comes at a time when a section of the SC leaders of Maharashtra Congress are upset with the state leadership. A meeting of Congress leaders belonging to the SC communities convened by AICC in charge of the state H K Patil earlier this month had witnessed a showdown between Energy Minister Nitin Raut and state president and his Cabinet colleague Balasaheb Thorat.
A section of the SC leaders were upset over the party nominating singer and activist Annirudha Vankar as an MLC candidate. Vankar had contested the Assembly polls last year on a Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi ticket.
Patil on Friday said the letter by Gandhi is based on the suggestions given by the state Congress after a brainstorming conclave of prominent Dalit leaders and stakeholders it had organised recently.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said his party has a commitment to the common minimum program. “The things mentioned in the letter are part of common minimum programme and we have a commitment to it. Some of the things could not have happened as there was a lockdown in this year. But, these things will happen from next year,” he said.
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