Under fire over his stance on the Jawaharlal Nehru University row and his participation in the students’ protests on Rohith Vemula’s suicide, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will address his party’s Dalit Leadership Development Conclave here on Thursday.
Being conducted by the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee’s (UPCC) scheduled caste department, the conclave will focus on the ‘anti-Dalit’ stance of the party’s major political adversaries – the saffron brigade, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP).
A party leader said the UPCC will likely announce an Uttar Pradesh Declaration to provide a road map to reach out to Dalits in response to the anti-Dalit approach of the BJP, RSS, BSP and SP. “’Rising atrocities’ against Dalits remain on the top of agenda that the party has worked out for the conclave,” the leader added.
Other issues likely to come up for discussion include ‘strategy for developing Dalit leadership and strengthening the voice of SC/ST in the state party organisation’ apart from Dr Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar’s mission and the party’s vision for empowering Dalits both socially and economically.
Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the conclave considering the friction between the BJP and Congress. On Wednesday, BJP youth had taken out a mock funeral procession of Gandhi to protest his remarks on the JNU controversy while Congress’ youth wing retaliated by burning an effigy of BJP president Amit Shah for his comments against him.
The UPCC’s conclave is widely being seen as a repeated attempt by the Congress to bring the backward class into its fold as national parties vie for their votes ahead of the 2017 assembly elections.
Following the death of Hyderabad University research scholar Rohith Vemula, the Congress appointed Lucknow University Professor Dr AK Arya as the convenor of the conclave to drive the discussion concerning Dalit youths and students.
The UP Congress has already completed two phases of its Bhim Jyoti Yatras aimed at allaying Dalit ‘misgivings’ against the party across different assembly constituencies. Similar yatras are being planned to cover all the assembly seats.
On the other end of the political battle is the BJP that set its Dalit agenda rolling months ago. Most recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, visited the Ambedkar Mahasabha office where Dr Ambedkar’s ashes are kept in an urn.
The BSP has also been making consistent efforts to swing Dalit votes their way while the SP has been focusing on those of them who may be weaning away from the BSP.