Koppula Raju, a former IAS officer, is Rahul Gandhi's choice to drive the Congress agenda for scheduled castes.
After making a success out of the women self help group initiative in Andhra Pradesh and making key contributions to the food security and other social sector programmes during his stint with the National Advisory Council, Raju admits he is in uncharted waters of politics.
The former civil servant was appointed as Chairman of the Scheduled Castes Department of the All India Congress Committee with clear directions from Rahul to rejuvenate the virtually defunct arm of the party.
Several of the 20 AICC departments exist only on paper and Raju appears to have begun in right earnest by drawing up four-point plan spread over 20 years to re-energise the department.
The four-point plan includes nurturing leaders from the Scheduled Caste communities, make their voice heard at all the party fora, involve them in drafting laws for their welfare and have Congress workers raise dalit issues in every village. “I have discussed the plan with the Congress vice president and he has approved it,” Raju said.
The Congress has 120 MLAs belonging to Scheduled Castes in state assemblies across the country. A thrust for the party would also be to get better candidates who could raise issues related to the community in a more effective manner at different fora.
During his three-year tenure with the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, Raju said the panel faced difficulties in getting inputs from political parties, particularly from the Congress, while making recommendations on laws such as the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The NAC had to rely heavily on social organization while deliberating on matters related to SC and ST communities.
As a politician, Raju now plans to network with NGOs and advocacy groups working on dalit issues and use the research produced by them and take it forward.
As an IAS officer, Raju played a critical role in the growth and development of self-help groups of women in Andhra Pradesh and implemented anti-poverty programmes of the state government effectively.
As district collector of Nellore, Raju earned the sobriquet “peoples’ collector” for implementation of the slum improvement programmes and total literacy campaign.
country witnessed one of the most successful total literacy campaigns and a famous and widely acclaimed movement lead by poor women against sale of country liquor, which forced the government to change it’s excise policy. As Commissioner Municipal Corporation of Visakhapatnam, he launched one of most successful slum improvement programs.
Raju took voluntary retirement while working as the Special Chief Secretary in the Andhra Pradesh government.