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

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - CL.Manoj@ times­group.com

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.

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