In the ongoing post election analysis of the Congress debacle in the Uttar Pradesh polls, party scion Rahul Gandhi is not limiting the exercise to feedback from Congress leaders and candidates.
The Congress general secretary, who led its campaign in UP, is also trying to learn how the Bahujan Samaj Party first cornered the Dalit vote and then saw its grip slacken. Gandhi today spent an hour listening intently to an academic paper presentation on the subject at the Nehru Memorial Library on Tuesday.
Gandhi had made an effort to reach out to the sizable Dalit section in UP in this poll. At the lecture delivered by Jayabrata Sarkar, the audience was given an exposition of how Mayawati’s hold on the Dalit vote was weakening due to the treating of the community only as a vote bank, without commensurate development gains. Gandhi sat engrossed as the lecture delved into a detailed analysis of the earlier strategic social engineering of the BSP, when it strung together a Brahmin-Dalit alliance. When asked what his takeaway from the lecture was, Gandhi told Business Standard, “I had primarily come to hear and listen.”
The young Gandhi had travelled across half the 85 reserved constituencies in the state, highlighting to his Dalit audiences the allegedly corruption-ridden BSP regime. Yet, of the 89 Dalits fielded by the Congress (including the 85 on reserved seats), it won only five. This was a fall from even its 2007 tally, where it had managed to win seven.
Gandhi had spent several nights in Dalit homes, sharing meals with their families on his visits to community hamlets. Yet, it wasn’t enough. Still, in his interactions with party leaders from the state, he has advised them to focus on winning over Dalit support.