Fight with BJP, not SP or BSP, says Cong’s K Raju
As the Congress plans to woo Dalits in the upcoming UP, Punjab and Gujarat polls, its Scheduled Caste Department chief 'K Raju shares more in an exclusive interview to Millennium Post senior special correspondent Supriya Bhardwaj.
Question: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Kisan Yatra has just concluded. So what is party’s next course of action to woo Dalit community in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh (UP)?
K Raju: On the lines of Kisan yatra, we are planning a massive Dalit outreach campaign in UP, which hopefully will be led by Rahulji himself. Congress party is working on new promises and deals for Dalits and there can’t be a better person than Rahulji himself , who will announce them.
Question: What all campaign programmes can we expect during this Dalit outreach campaign?
K Raju: It will have Rahulji visiting districts, interacting with Dalit community, listening to their problems, interacting with various sections of Dalits such as landless labourers, educated youth, intellectuals, employees. We are working on the nitty-gritty of the campaign and soon will come out with a blueprint.
Question: Is Mayawati a threat in UP? Are you eyeing her ‘constituency’, the Dalit vote bank?
K Raju: For Congress, Mayawati is not a threat. Mayawati’s vote bank – Dalit community -is dwindling and they are definitely looking at us. Certain sections of Dalit community are with BSP. This is a fact that all admit. But of late, that group has also started developing serious doubt about BSP’s ability to convert poll promises into a reality. They have seen BSP in government. They know the gap between promises and reality. Mayawati’s promises and their delivery is something that Congress doesn’t need to speak about. Dalits know it very well.
Question: Whom do you see as your top opponent in UP elections?
K Raju : Our fight is with BJP in Uttar Pradesh not with SP or BSP. Dalits have seen how SP and BSP neglected them. So this is the section among SC/Dalit communities who have seen what has happened in the last two years. Congress has continuously raised their issues and how ruling party at the Centre, BJP, has been anti-Dalit. They would like to support a national party as they have understood that only a national party can protect Dalits, not the regional parties.
Question: UP elections are scheduled for early next year. How will the Dalit candidates be selected this time?
K Raju: Getting 21% Dalit share in the party is a formidable task. We started our work in UP three years back in each reserved constituencies. There are 85 such constituencies. We did a thorough analysis of our party’s last performances, candidates’ performances, winning margins etc. We selected 5-6 candidates and gave them tasks. We then monitored their work and now we have zeroed in on few as candidates.
Question: What about Punjab which is also going to the polls which has approximately 34% Dalit population.
K Raju: In Punjab also we did a great deal of work at the ground level. The entire election of Congress is being fought under Captain Amarinder Singh, who has reached out very well to the community. Dalits of Punjab have greater confidence in Captain Amarinder because they have seen during his previous tenure many pro-Dalit programmes/schemes getting implemented effectively. SAD-BJP has not been able to win the confidence of Dalits.
Question: AAP has made Punjab election a triangular affair. How big is AAP as a threat to Congress in Punjab given that they are also trying to reach out to the Dalit community?
K Raju: AAP’s popularity bubble is busting. There are internal conflicts. They are not able to project a CM candidate. There is an internal bickering. AAP is not able to give clear direction in which it plans to take Punjab. The party is losing ground and is doing mere empty promises. They don’t have a Dalit empowerment policy in Delhi. Dalits are facing all sorts of problems in national Capital. Captain Amarinder has made solid promises to Dalits.
Ques: Punjab has 34 reserved seats. What all preparations are being made by party to win these seats?
K Raju: In every constituency, a group of well- trained Dalit youths are visiting Dalit households. The idea is to visit each house thrice before we go to polls. This ‘Dalit’ team is informing Dalit community members about our programmes, policies and what we plan to do. This is a major outreach programme. Secondly, we have done already state-level rallies. Now we are going to organise district-level rallies. Rahulji is also going to spend considerable time interacting with Dalit community in Punjab.
Question: In Gujarat there is a massive mobilization of Dalits after Una incident. What is Congress’ plan for Gujarat?
K Raju : There was a spontaneous mobilization of Dalit in Gujarat after Una incident. We have started a massive campaign called Dalit Swadhikar movement which was launched on October 2 to put pressure on the government to fulfil few demands.
Question: What are the major demands of party in Gujarat?
K Raju: Effective mechanism for prevention of atrocities. Dalits are subjected to discrimination in various facets of life in Gujarat particularly in schools, colleges. So on education front, we are demanding scholarship for Dalit students. Backlog vacancies not filled. Various programmes that provide benefits to Dalits by and large have been closed down. These set of demands we have put before the Gujarat government and they will also become our election promises for upcoming elections.
Question: The opposition has slammed BJP for rise in Dalit atrocities. But BJP says opposition politicising the issues. Your Take.
K Raju: To say this politically motivated is incorrect. All these atrocities have taken place because somebody has taken away rights of the individuals (dalits). We have been raising Dalit related issues, the atrocities that they are facing. The thrust on Dalit empowerment has come down. It has been significantly diluted from the last two years.
Question: What is party’s strategy for upcoming winter session of the Parliament?
K Raju: We will demand a white paper from NDA government on what they have done for Dalits ever since they have come to the power. How many Dalits got jobs? How many Dalits got access to land? How many Dalits got pukka houses? How many Dalit employees got promotion which is due to them? How many Dalits were provided civic amenities? BJP has to prove it with White paper that they did
something (for community). I am sure they’ll not be able to do so because the thrust on Dalit development has come down.