The Union government will take the on-going political war with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati right into the latter’s home turf through a populist pro-Dalit scheme.
The ambitious scheme — the Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana — aims at bringing good roads, schools, clean water, health services and power to one in every nine village, that has more than 40 per cent SC population.
But a fourth of the chosen villages — meaning 17,000 — are in Mayawati’s UP, which already has an Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojana that Mayawati takes pride in.
A clash to take credit is thus on the cards, as the Congress makes a fresh bid to reclaim UP’s Dalits, once part of its rainbow coalition.
“The scheme is coming too close to elections to expect it to break much ice on the ground. It may just amount to scoring political points,” says a government official.
The proposal was part of the first report of the 15-member Group of Ministers — set up under Pranab Mukherjee to suggest steps for development of Scheduled Castes — submitted to the Prime Minister recently.
Mayawati had created the Dr Ambedkar Rural Development Department in UP in 1995 to run the Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojana. There is a separate Minister — Ratan Lal Ahirwar at present — in charge of the development of Ambedkar villages in Uttar Pradesh.
Like the planned Central scheme, the focus of the UP scheme has been provision of drinking water, road, power, schools and basic health facilities.
Interestingly, it was Rajiv Gandhi who had first thought of targetted development of villages with Dalit concentration through an Ambedkar Village Scheme.
Sociologist Vivek Kumar says the scheme could not really see the light of day.
With the Congress losing its Dalit following to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the 1990s, the party has finally woken-up to the need to reclaim Dalits to remain politically powerful in the long run.
After Rahul Gandhi's much-publicised visits to Dalit households in UP already leading to sharp rebukes by Mayawati, any new developments may only raise the political temperature further.