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Congress to focus on Dalit candidates in UP polls

india Updated: Jan 15, 2012 15:24 IST
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Keen to better the party's performance in Uttar Pradesh, Congress has decided to give special focus on reserved constituencies as well as the seats from where it has fielded Dalit candidates in the state.

Rahul Gandhi on Saturday had a strategy meeting with party leaders to finetune Congress strategy in Dalit dominated consituencies of the state.

PL Puniya, one time close aide of chief minister Mayawati and currently a Congress MP from Barabanki in the state and Sirsa (Haryana) MP Ashok Tanwar have been given the 89 constituencies, where Dalits are in the fray.

Of these 85 constituencies are reserved for scheduled castes while in four general constiuencies, Congress has put up dalit candidates.

The party has entrusted the responsibility to Puniya, a former bureaucrat, who is now also the chairman of the National commission for scheduled castes, for obvious reasons. Being once close to Mayawati, Puniya, will be able to counter the BSP's campaign against Congress in these constituencies.

Tanwar, a former NSUI and Youth Congress president is a young dalit face from the Rahul Brigade.

The party is expecting a rise in its vote share among the scheduled castes after Rahul's visit to Dalit homes, which also invited sharp criticism from the opposition parties specially the BSP, which has been dubbing it as a "gimmick".

Congress has decided to appoint "observers with election experience" in all these 89 constiuencies. "Observers for these constituencies.

"Only one who is either an MLA, ex minister or ex MLA having previous experience in poll process will be appointed observers in these constituencies," said a party functionary on the condition of anonymity.

The party has also decided to accord top priority to these 89 constituencies in the 403-member state Assembly during the election campaign of top party leaders.

The demands from these constituencies for star campaigners will get a priority to other constituencies, the sources said.

These constituencies will also be given preference in distribution of publicity materials.

In the meeting Gandhi is learnt to have told the party leaders to focus on winning maximum possible seats from these constituencies.

A senior leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said victories in the reserved constituencies will give a moral upper hand to the party in the Mayawati-ruled state.

That the Congress is keen to rope in the Dalit voters of Uttar Pradesh was clear from Gandhi's sustained visits in the dalit localities, something which the party has not done in the Hindi state for a long time.

There has also been an attempt by the party leaders to rope in the non-Jatav Dalit votes in the state, though Congress has been wary to pronounce openly as it did not want to antagonise Jatavs, the core constituency of Mayawati.

The party has tried to rope in various sub-castes including Pasi among the scheduled castes.

Gandhi is likely to address a number of meetings in the reserved constituencies as electioneering picks for the state.