Alliance With SP Hits Rahul’s Pet Dalit Grooming Mission
New Delhi: The Congress has spiralled into damage control mode after a seatsharing agreement with Samajwadi Party has cast a shadow on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s pet project of developing Dalit leadership. Under the two-year-old Leadership Development Mission, Congress had shortlisted 265 Dalit leaders in 84 reserved constituencies through a meticulous process of assigning tasks and gauging the implementation. However, the seat-sharing alliance with SP has left 27 reserved seats in Congress’ quota of 104 Assembly constituencies. According to sources, 20 candidates chosen under Gandhi’s mission have been given tickets. This has left out 250-odd Dalit leaders cultivated by the party over the years. Sensing trouble, Gandhi has deputed trusted lieutenant K Raju and mission incharge in Uttar Pradesh Shashank Shukla to pacify all the disappointed leaders who were not considered. A source told ET, “These Dalit leaders are being personally spoken to. They are being told to remain patient. Everybody knew some of them would be disappoint- ed even if Congress would have fought the elections its own. Of the 265 leaders, only 84 would have been chosen. But this decision (alliance with SP) is a larger one and beyond the control of the state unit. So there should be no hard feelings.”
A large platform had been given to the Dalit leaders identified under the Leadership Development Mission. Each leader was given party’s identity card, multiple training sessions and a meticulous schedule to prove himself as the “winnable” face. The disappointed Dalit leaders are being reminded that the next big test is the parliamentary elections in 2019. “We are telling them to be patient. There would be local body elections too. So there would be many opportunities for them,” said another leader.
Some state unit leaders point out that the backlash within the cadre could be equally bad in the general seats. “In those seats the people eyeing tickets have not even been given any platform. But they have been given very intensive jobs like identifying Congress families in each booth and signing up Congress supporters at the village level.”
Congress leader K Raju