Toeing Rahul line,Cong sets up team to reach out to Dalitshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/toeing-rahul-line-cong-sets-up-team-to-reach-out-to-dalits/

Toeing Rahul line,Cong sets up team to reach out to Dalits

The party is looking to blend its political agenda with a social one.

Days after Rahul Gandhi signalled a renewed attempt to reach out to Dalits,the Congress has put together a team comprising activists,a former bureaucrat and domain experts to shape and deliver the Congress vice-president’s ambitious Dalit outreach.

Former bureaucrat and head of the Congress’s Scheduled Caste wing K Raju has prepared the blueprint for reworking the Congress’s engagement with Dalits,once the party’s mainstay. The team he put together has begun holding brainstorming sessions. The idea,sources said,was to mesh Congress’s political agenda with a social agenda.

The party has roped in Ruchi Gupta,who was associated with Aruna Roy’s National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan,noted Dalit activist Prasad Sirivella and IAS officer-turned-entrepreneur-tur-ned-politician Jaideep Kalia. Sources said they have joined a team being set up by Raju.

Kalia,who quit civil services in 1999,has a Masters degree in Economics from Birmingham University.

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The other notable entrant is Chandreshan — the grandson of late Congress strongman from Karnataka B Shankaranand.

An alumni of the National Law School,his mother Chandramma S Kanagali — who has authored a book on B R Ambedkar — is daughter of Shankaranand. The team also includes a former youth Congress leader Christopher Tilak — an MBA graduate from Tamil Nadu who was part of the election authority in the IYC.

Sources close to Rahul said he has been stressing during closed-door discussion that the Congress should project a social agenda and intervene in social issues to reach out to Dalits.

Raju has been asked to identify issues which can be included in the Congress manifesto for the 2014 elections.

Rahul has been talking about the need to create a Dalit leadership at every level and has targeted BSP chief Maya-wati arguing she has not let other Dalit leaders grow in UP. But the Congress is not just looking at Uttar Pradesh.

Raju,sources said,has identified 15 states,where the first goal is to recast the more or less defunct SC wings. The idea is to constitute them till block level and it is likely that office bearers will be given key performance indicators. Among the focus states are Tamil Nadu,UP,Bihar and Maharashtra. Raju is in touch with Dalit groups seeking their inputs. The four-point plan,prepared by Raju and cleared by Rahul,includes advocacy for policy making,nurturing leaders from SC communities,increasing their presence at the leadership levels to make their voice heard and taking up Dalit issues at grassroot levels.

The Team

K Raju

*n Ex-bureaucrat and head of the Congress’s Scheduled Caste. He is putting together the team to deliver Rahul’s ambitious Dalit outreach.

Ruchi Gupta

* Associated with Aruna Roy’s National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan Prasad Sirivella

* Noted Dalit activist

Jaideep Kalia

* IAS officer-turned-entrepreneur-turned-politician

Chandreshan

* Grandson of late party strongman from Karnataka B Shankaranand

Christopher Tilak

* MBA graduate who was part of the election authority in the IYC