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HindustanTimes Thu,30 Oct 2014
Reserved seats on Rahul's radar
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 17, 2012
First Published: 00:34 IST(17/1/2012)
Last Updated: 00:37 IST(17/1/2012)
Assembly polls: Congress plays quota card

After shifting the centre of gravity of the Congress party away from the upper castes, Rahul Gandhi has now launched a special focus campaign to get the best results in 85 constituencies reserved for Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. The idea is that such constituencies are spread across the state and lifting them up will have a spin-off effect that would help the party overall. Dalits constitute 21% of the total population in UP and is considered a strong vote-bank of the ruling BSP.

A special drive led by BL Punia—Congress MP from Barabanki and one-time close aide of BSP chief Mayawati—and Ashok Tanwar, MP from Haryana’s Sirsa and rising Dalit leader of the party, will involve more than 100 special observers camping in such constituencies.

“Most of the candidates are first-timers. They need support and help from the more experienced among us,” said Tanwar. “Developing and empowering Dalit leadership has been priority for Rahulji.”

Apart from the reserved constituencies, they have also been assigned four other seats from where the party has fielded Dalits.

Gandhi also believes that in the routine organisation of election campaign, reserved constituencies are usually ignored. A good number of star campaigners will, therefore, address the election meetings in these seats which will also be given preference in distribution of publicity materials. Gandhi will himself address a number of meetings in these constituencies in the next few weeks.

The Congress is also trying to woo non-Jatav voters, preferably Pasi (second largest scheduled caste after Jatavs), without pronouncing it openly as that would mean antagonising the Jatavs.

After chalking out the strategy for reserved seats on Saturday, Gandhi followed it up with a meeting on Monday to fine-tune it for Muslim-dominated constituencies.

He told senior Muslim Congress leaders to campaign extensively in UP and highlight the UPA government’s achievements and programmes for the Muslims, who constitute 18% of the total population of the state.

But Gandhi also told them not to restrict their campaign talking points to the Muslims only and speak about the inclusive agenda of the Congress and the UPA government.


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