Monday, December 28, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Rahul weaves self-help magic in Bundelkhand

Monday, December 28, 2009 12:30:00 AM

Rahul weaves self-help magic in Bundelkhand

Deepak Gidwani / DNA

"You have to learn to fight for your rights… learn the paperwork
(involved in government functioning)… catch hold of the officials…
learn to fight for what is your rightful due…" That is Congress leader
Rahul Gandhi exhorting women — mostly Dalits — in the Babina block of
Jhansi district on his recent visit to Uttar Pradesh's (UP's)
Bundelkhand region.
The rather aggressive statements are part of Rahul's latest strategy
to galvanise the poor, oppressed and largely illiterate Bundeli women
for the Congress' 'mission Bundelkhand' to counter the BSP's influence
in the region.

The BSP, which too had begun its winning streak in UP from this region
dominated by Dalits and backward castes, has a major presence in

The redoubtable network of women self-help groups (SHGs) created by
Rahul in Amethi and Rae Bareli has formed the backbone of the party's
support structure in the two constituencies. The SHG formula had also
been used to great effect in Andhra Pradesh, before it was brought to

The Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust is providing financial support to
these SHGs. The trust already has its presence in all seven
Bundelkhand districts. More than 300 SHGs are functional in Jhansi
alone, and in the Babina block of the district, a woman from every
second family in an SHG member. The portion of Bundelkhand falling in
Madhya Pradesh would be taken up for a similar exercise in the next
phase, a Congress worker told DNA.
Rahul's strategy could work wonders, Congress leaders felt. "The SHGs
have nothing to do with the party or elections. But Rahulji is doing a
wonderful job for the Bundeli women who have been oppressed and
exploited for ages," Vivek Singh, an MLA from Banda and chairman of
the UP Congress media division, said.

However, Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha president and actor Raja Bundela is
"Bundelkhand is a God-forsaken place. There is no employment, no
industry. Rahul's initiatives are welcome but they have their
limitations," he says. "What Bundelkhand needs is a huge dose of
development… that's possible only when we do away with symbolic
measures and vote-bank politics," he adds.

Congress spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh counters, saying: "UP has a
BSP government and Madhya Pradesh has a BJP regime. We can't release
funds, we can't make the policies. We have to work within
limitations… Rahulji is setting an example that politicians can do
ground work without votebank politics."


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