With an eye on Dalit vote bank in Doaba, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday visited Ravidassia community’s Dera Sachkhand Ballan.
Earlier in the day, he announced that the Congress government in Punjab would set up a university after Dalit icon Bhim Rao Ambedkar in Jalandhar.
Rahul, who was accompanied by Conress in-charge of Punjab affairs Asha Kumari, co-incharge Harish Chaudhary and Jalandhar MP Santokh Chaudhary, held a closed-door meeting with Dera Ballan head Sant Niranjan Dass.
Sources said Rahul appealed to the dera head to extend support to the Congress.
Former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Avinash Chandar was reportedly instrumental in arranging Rahul’s meeting with the dera head. Avinash was about to join the Congress in November last year, but the plan was cancelled at the last minute.
Sources said when Rahul reached the dera, he was escorted by Avinash to the personal room of the dera head. Rahul had a one-on-one meeting with the dera head for nearly half an hour.
The Congress vice-president’s dera visit is significant as there were reports that dera could go with SAD after deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal inducted two key dera men from Congress, Satpal Mal and Kabir Dass, into SAD and gave them tickets from Kartarpur and Nabha, respectively.
Earlier, AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal also visited the dera, which is known as the Mecca of Ravidassia community comprising major vote share in at least 50 seats. In Doaba where the community dominates the schedule caste (SC) share of votes, dera followers are a key factor.
In 2012, the dera had voted in favour of BSP which polled more than 20,000 votes in 12 of the 23 seats in Doaba.
Rahul, who earlier addressed a rally in Phillaur in favour of Congress candidate Vikramjit Chaudhary, said, “If the Congress forms government in Punjab, a university after the Dalit icon Bhim Rao Ambedkar would be set up in Jalandhar.”
More than 50,000 jobs to would be given Dalit youths, he announced.