New Delhi: The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress plans to release specific manifestos for all constituencies reserved for scheduled castes (SCs) in the state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to be held later this year.
The move, which is aimed at garnering a huge chunk of Dalit votes, is significant as the party is considering the feasibility of scaling it up for Lok Sabha elections.
A total of 79 assembly seats out of 520 in the three states have been reserved for SCs, with Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan accounting for 35 and 34 seats, respectively.
The performance of the Congress in these seats could swing the electoral fortunes in favour of the party, which is out of power in all the three states and is in a direct contest with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Our ground campaign by the SC department is on in all the three states. We have been asking people to suggest what kind of policy changes they would like specific to the Dalit community because their issues are different. We will compile this for all the reserved seats, share it with the contestant and release it for public outreach. We will eventually consolidate it and add it to the overall state manifesto," Nitin Raut, chief of Congress’ SC department told Mint.
Dalits comprise 17.8% population in Rajasthan, 15.6% in Madhya Pradesh and 12.8% in Chhattisgarh, according to the 2011 census.
“Policymaking is the key. We go door to door seeking the views of Dalits. The idea is to understand how we can make them stakeholders in the political process and enhance the lives of Dalits and bring them at par with others," said Raut.
The SC department of the party is also focusing on constituencies with more than 10% Dalit population and those seats that were reserved before delimitation but have ceased to be so now.
“We intend to do this henceforth in every election and so general elections is also included," said Raut. This is significant as 84 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats are reserved seats.
The party has been running a micro-level outreach campaign that includes chaupal meetings (village public meetings) and parivar baithaks (meetings with families) in the poll bound states.
The SC department has asked its office bearers to stay with party volunteers and members wherever possible during the campaign, to ensure that party leaders engage with the community. It has also told its office bearers that meals during the campaign should be had along with party workers either at their homes or at a public place.