Reserved seats on Rahul's radar
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 17, 2012
After shifting the centre of gravity of the Congress party away from
the upper castes, Rahul Gandhi has now launched a special focus
campaign to get the best results in 85 constituencies reserved for
Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. The idea is that such constituencies are
spread across the state and
lifting them up will have a spin-off effect that would help the party
overall. Dalits constitute 21% of the total population in UP and is
considered a strong vote-bank of the ruling BSP.
A special drive led by BL Punia—Congress MP from Barabanki and
one-time close aide of BSP chief Mayawati—and Ashok Tanwar, MP from
Haryana's Sirsa and rising Dalit leader of the party, will involve
more than 100 special observers camping in such constituencies.
"Most of the candidates are first-timers. They need support and help
from the more experienced among us," said Tanwar. "Developing and
empowering Dalit leadership has been priority for Rahulji."
Apart from the reserved constituencies, they have also been assigned
four other seats from where the party has fielded Dalits.
Gandhi also believes that in the routine organisation of election
campaign, reserved constituencies are usually ignored. A good number
of star campaigners will, therefore, address the election meetings in
these seats which will also be given preference in distribution of
publicity materials. Gandhi will himself address a number of meetings
in these constituencies in the next few weeks.
The Congress is also trying to woo non-Jatav voters, preferably Pasi
(second largest scheduled caste after Jatavs), without pronouncing it
openly as that would mean antagonising the Jatavs.
After chalking out the strategy for reserved seats on Saturday, Gandhi
followed it up with a meeting on Monday to fine-tune it for
He told senior Muslim Congress leaders to campaign extensively in UP
and highlight the UPA government's achievements and programmes for the
Muslims, who constitute 18% of the total population of the state.
But Gandhi also told them not to restrict their campaign talking
points to the Muslims only and speak about the inclusive agenda of the
Congress and the UPA government.
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