The Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) 12th foundation day rally celebrated on Friday as a social justice convention was a show-of-strength statement in the backdrop of the upcoming local self-government polls.
It was also a serious attempt to present a broader and more inclusive identity of the NCP, largely known as the party of Marathas, by flagging a pro-dalit and backward class agenda.
The charter of demands by the party included renaming of Dadar station as Chaityabhoomi, greater financial subsidies, education opportunities and reservation in government schemes, among others.
The rally had leaders organising special trains from Vidarbha and hundreds of buses came in from cities such as Nashik and Pune. The organisers claimed the gathering was around 1.5 lakh.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar assured the crowd: “Fruits of progress should go to the last man in the hierarchy and this charter will try and bring benefits of government schemes to the poorest families.”
The charter is to be submitted to the central as well as state governments. The sops include 90% subsidy for sprinkler irrigation for backward class farmers and adivasis, building of three lakh homes for them, 10% reservation in Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) stalls, reservation in MIDC plots, more scholarships for higher studies and hostels.
The party also plans to take up a drive for ensuring speedier caste certificates to backward class families on the lines of ration card. In a bid to woo minorities, it has called for terming Neo Buddhists and Christians converted post-1956 as scheduled castes. The party faces a serious challenge in the upcoming elections, which it is contesting solo, and faces its ally, Congress, as one of the rivals. In the last elections, the party saw its vote bank shrinking and is looking at ways to consolidate its base in rural areas and making better foray into towns and cities.