UP Cong desperate to cast its 'maya' on dalits

When Rahul Gandhi declared at a Congress party rally in Uttar Pradesh recently that ‘ab hum pichey hatne wale nahin’ (we are not going to go back now) and the BSP leaders took a pledge that the Congress must be ‘demolished’ in UP, it only indicated that the battle for the dalit votes in this politically crucial state is all set to intensify in the days to come.

Although the next Assembly polls in UP is a good two years away, the Congress and the BSP have already sounded the election bugle and begun their preparations.
Buoyed by its ‘unexpectedly good showing’ in the 2009 general elections in UP, the Congress feels that it could spring a surprise in the 2012 polls in the state if it is able to wean away a sizeable portion of the dalit votes, which constitutes about 21 per cent, from the BSP fold.

The Congress is out of power in UP for the past two decades, but in the last year’s Lok Sabha elections, it was able to make a small dent in the BSP’s vote bank. Congress’ victory in dalit-dominated Barabanki and Unnao constituencies was enough to unsettle the BSP.

In the name of Ambedkar
The BSP is also perturbed over the Congress’ attempt to woo the dalits in the name of their icon B R Ambedkar. The Congress’ decision to launch the statewide ‘chetna yatra’ on 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar and that too from a town named after him was a pointer in this direction. For the first time in decades, a photograph of Ambedkar found its place on the Congress platform.

Incidentally, the BSP also launched its nationwide protest against the Women Reservation Bill on the same day. The BSP’s programme in Ambedkar Nagar was held at a venue barely yards away from that of the Congress.

As the race to project themselves as the true followers of Ambedkar heats up, the BSP has accused Congress of ‘back stabbing’ Ambedkar and never according him the respect he deserved. The Congress has hit back at the BSP, saying that Mayawati was projecting herself as a taller leader than Ambedkar as her statues dotting the state were bigger than that of the dalit icon.

Besides, much to the discomfiture of the BSP, Rahul Gandhi has been visiting dalit households regularly and trying to ‘expose’ the Mayawati government on its alleged failure to properly implement the Centre’s flagship MNREGA scheme.

Political pundits believe that the BSP knows too well that any dent in its vote bank could cost it dearly in the 2012 Assembly polls and hence, after the defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, it has gone back to its dalit agenda with a vengeance.The state government has directed its officials to speed up development works in ‘Ambedkar Villages.’ The party’s most visible Brahmin face, S C Mishra has been sidelined and made chairman of the party’s legal cell. He has been asked to focus on the court cases faced by Mayawati.
Recently, around 75 government lawyers who were Brahmins, were sacked triggering speculation that the BSP was distancing itself from the community. Party general secretary Naseemuddin Siddique has, however, claimed that the BSP continued to hold the  community in due respect.

It was the formidable Brahmin-Dalit combination, which the political experts termed as a clever mode of ‘social engineering,’ that saw the BSP catapult to power in the 2007 Assembly polls with an absolute majority in UP for any single party after a gap of 17 years.

But the combine failed to work its magic in the subsequent Lok Sabha polls, leading to apprehensions among the BSP leaders that the dalits were turning away from the party owing to its ‘pro-Brahmin stance.’

While the BSP appears to be totally confused at the moment, there is no such predicament before the Congress, which is  focussed on the dalit voters. As the assembly poll date nears, the tug-of-war between the two parties is bound to escalate.

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