Congress Trying to Assemble Right Caste Mix for Team UP
Threatened by rival parties like BSP, SP & BJP, Cong decides to experiment with social combinations
New Delhi: The Congress is trying to put together a collective leadership in Uttar Pradesh that will have a social outreach when the state goes to the polls a year from now. Faced with entrenched turf rivals such as BSP, SP and the BJP — who despite their respective social bases rooted in caste and religion are making ‘social reengineering’ efforts — the Congress has been forced to experiment with social combinations that can help the party in UP’s tough electoral turf.
Knowing its traditional MuslimBrahmin-Dalit rainbow combination has already been hijacked by turf rivals, AICC strategists are now looking at options to re-work the social contours of its leadership team ahead of the 2017 polls.
A detailed questionnaire the UP Congress leadership recently circulated to the district level leaders (as reported by ET), therefore, made a conscious attempt to seek feedback from middle-rung party leaders on the castes to be tapped.
A review of the feedback, sources said, will be done at a meeting in Lucknow next Wednesday. It will be attended by senior state leaders, AICC representatives, party’s campaign strategist Prashant Kishor and frontal organisation chiefs.
The exercise is part of the attempt to find a new team in the state.
“The actual changes could take pla- ce after the results of the ongoing state elections,” said a party insider.
As reported by ET, an internal debate on changing the PCC leadership has begun.
The limited reach of UPCC chief Nirmal Khatri’s caste has become a debating point even though the incumbent chief has the goodwill of the central leadership. Coinciding with this, Amethi MP Sanjay Singh has shown interest in becoming the next PCC president.
While his pitch, according sources, is being justified by some on the ground that the Congress needed to appeal to the upper castes, it also coincides with BJP’s Smriti Irnai making a determined attempt to breach the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Another section argues the need to tap the Kurmis and have floated the names of Beni Prasad Verma and RPN Singh, while yet another section argues for a Brahmin face to woo the Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit combination. Since the state Congress is a battered one, its Brahmin choice is limited to Rita Bahuguna and Jitin Prasada. The party is also debating on whether UP should have a new AICC general secretary. Madhusudan Mistry, who is from Gujarat and close to Rahul Gandhi, is currently holding the charge and is quite active. But a section argues someone from one of the Hindi-speaking states with a better knowledge of the social dynamics of UP politics should be given the supervisory job.
This led to the floating of Sheila Dikshit’s name for general secretary or chairman of the campaign committee. Her backers say her stature and status as the daughter-in-law of the late Uma Shankar Dikshit could impress the Brahmin segment. The recent appointment of Kamal Nath as the chairman of the AICC’s candidates selection for Assam have prompted some party leaders to argue that his “managerial skills” could be tapped if he is made the AICC in-charge.
However, many feel Nath’s next call could be to head the PCC of Madhya Pradesh. With BJP makes a strong pre-poll pitch to consolidate its position among the upper caste and non-Yadav OBCs ahead of the state polls and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati fight it out to tap the Muslim voters to supplement their respective Yadav and Dalit social base, Congress sources feel the AICC will have to make its own moves soon to keep the UP Congress afloat in the pre-poll social churning in the state politics by making its caste preferences clear.