With the exit of senior leader Yashpal Arya, the Congress’ star Dalit face, the party is now left with one prominent Dalit leader in poll-bound Uttarakhand.
After Arya switched allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday, the Congress’ only major Dalit leader is Rajya Sabha member Pradeep Tamta. On the other hand, Union minister Ajay Tamta, apart from newly-inducted Arya are holding the fort for the BJP.
Scheduled castes comprise over 18% of the hill state’s population and are likely to play a decisive role in assembly elections as the Congress’ vote share (33.79%) was just neck-to-neck to that of the BJP’s (33.13%) in 2012 assembly polls. Scheduled castes population is by and large uniformly distributed across all the 13 districts in terms of percentage.
Pradeep Tamta, however, told HT that Arya’s loss would not affect the party much and would only help “nurture new Dalit leadership” within the Congress. “Crisis always gives birth to new leadership. We already have some young, promising Dalit faces, including our sitting MLAs, and I’m sure they will in rise in prominence over the time to come,” Tamta said, adding the Congress was committed to the Dalits’ welfare.
He said Congress’ sitting MLAs, including Sarita Arya from Nainital (who is also president of Congress’ women wing), representative of Tharali seat in Chamoli district Jeet Ram, Rajkumar from Rajpur Road seat in Dehradun district, Sunder Lal Mandrawal from Pauri seat and Narayan Ram Arya from Gangolihaat in Pithoragarh district were doing “great work”.
Tamta also alleged Arya of failing to serve the cause of the scheduled castes. “He didn’t do much for the cause of the weaker section and even went on to oppose other Dalit leaders’ elevation within the party. It is sad that he decided to join BJP under whose rule at the Centre atrocities on Dalits and minorities are being perpetrated across the country,” he said.