Congress chief woos OBCs

Last Updated 27 March 2019, 20:31 IST

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday reached out to the OBCs — the largest caste group — promising them greater representation in political offices.

Rahul's assurances came at the National Convention of the AICC OBC Department that was attended by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Youth Congress President Keshav Chand Yadav, among others.

“Today you are seeing two OBC chief ministers of the Congress party. In the days ahead, you will see more OBC chief ministers, MPs and MLAs,” the Rahul said.

He also said that the Congress had made Siddaramaiah, who belongs to the Kuruba community, the chief minister of Karnataka.

The OBCs form 52% of the country's population, but had strayed away from the Congress after the emergence of strong community leaders such as Lalu Prasad in Bihar and Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh. These leaders emerged during the Jayaprakash Narayan movement against then prime minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.

The Congress has been making aggressive moves to reach out to the OBCs as it seeks to revive its fortunes after the disastrous outing in the 2014 elections.

Rahul said the Congress' key election announcement of minimum income guarantee — which entails giving Rs 3.6 lakh to the poorest families over a five year period — will benefit the OBC section of the population the most.

“The previous UPA government had lifted 14 crore people out of poverty, most of these were OBCs,” the Congress chief said.

In 2014, only 15% of the OBCs voted for Congress while 34% of them preferred the BJP. The saffron party remained the preferred choice of the OBCs in subsequent elections as well.

The OBCs comprise Yadavs and Kurmis in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and Vokkaligas in Karnataka to Badhais, Lohars and Kewats in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

However, the National Convention witnessed poor response, prompting Rahul to delay his address.

(Published 27 March 2019, 19:13 IST)

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