Varanasi, Feb 9 (IANS) Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s Varanasi visit on Sunday is not only about temple and religion, as the Congress would like everyone to believe. The visit has a definite Dalit outreach and Priyanka’s participation in the Guru Ravidas birth anniversary celebration at Seer Govardhanpur is a clear indication of it.
Guru Ravidas, a Dalit seer, poet-saint, social reformer and a spiritual figure who was a part of the Bhakti movement in the 15th and 16th century, is held in high esteem by the Dalit communities.
The devotional songs of Ravidas have had a lasting impact during the Bhakti movement.
After arriving in Varanasi, Priyanka offered prayers at the Ravidas temple and met the seers.
She said that Guru Ravidas never discriminated between people on the basis of caste or religion and treated each one as equal.
“He reflected the soul of India and said that Ram and Rahim are one. In present times, we need to understand and follow his principles so that hatred can be removed,” she said.
The Congress, apparently is trying to win back Dalits in UP and regain lost ground.
Dalits, along with Brahmins and Muslims, formed the core vote base of the Congress till the eighties.
The advent of the Mandal politics and the Ayodhya temple movement in the early nineties turned the tide against the Congress. While Brahmins went with the BJP, the Muslims found refuge in the Samajwadi Party and Dalits opted for the BSP.
All three parties were emerging on the political horizon of Uttar Pradesh and their growth was directly proportional to the decline of the Congress in the state.
The Congress did not have a single Dalit leader of stature who could wield considerable influence on the community.
In 2009, it was Rahul Gandhi who started a Dalit outreach campaign in Uttar Pradesh when he started visiting the homes of Dalits, shared meals with them and even spent the night in their houses.
The campaign, however, was not followed up by party workers who reduced the outreach to a mere photo opportunity.
After the drubbing of the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has taken it upon herself to bring Dalits back into the party fold.
“Dalits are now completely disillusioned with the BSP which has only provided lip service to the community. Priyanka has already started making the right moves by visiting Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad when he was hospitalised and then demanding proper medical care for him in jail. The Bhim Army is proving to be BSP’s nemesis and if the Congress can strike a deal with it, the party will benefit,” said a senior party leader.
Last year, Priyanka was the first political leader to visit Sonebhadra where ten tribals were massacred after a land dispute. The Congress also provided financial assistance to the victims’ kin.