The battle for the Dalit vote in Uttar Pradesh has now entered Parliament. The Government has urged Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to depart from convention and adjourn the Lok Sabha on the opening day of the winter session on November 22 after paying homage to Kanshi Ram, former member of the House and Bahujan Samaj Party leader who died recently.
In a letter, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachauri admitted that the adjournment for the whole day for a former member was not part of the convention. But he urged a departure from it as Kanshi Ram was not only an important member of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha but had also emerged as a prominent leader of Dalits.
He was, according to Pachauri, an icon like Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Babu Jagjivan Ram and it would be in the fitness of things to adjourn the House for the day after recalling his contributions.
In his letter, Pachauri also said that the adjournment of the House in memory of Kanshi Ram should not be treated as a precedent.
Since the Speaker tends to go by consensus on such issues, he is likely to put the matter before leaders of political parties when he meets them over lunch on Tuesday as part of his pre-session consultations.
The Rajya Sabha would be adjourned on the opening day because of the death of sitting member Lalit Suri. But with the Government taking the lead in seeking an adjournment of the Lower House in Kanshi Ram’s memory, the Congress would to capitalise on it when it goes scouting for Dalit votes in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in early 2007.
Although Kanshi Ram had left UP in Mayawati’s charge even when he was alive, his departure from the scene has raised hopes in other parties that they could perhaps make a dent in the BSP’s Dalit base.
After the SP, BSP and the BJP walked away with the Congress’ Muslim, Dalit and Brahmin vote, the latter has been trying to win over at least one caste group in the hope that the others may follow.
It is also aware that unless it manages to recoup lost ground in UP and in states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Bihar, which together add up to 203 Lok Sabha seats, it cannot hope to come to power on its own at the Centre.
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