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Udit Raj: Congress has an influential president in Mallikarjun Kharge

‘The Congress is the only political party in India to have made a provision in its Constitution for 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs and OBCs – right from the booth to the top level. Kharge has played an important role in this’, says Udit Raj

Congress leader and former MP Udit Raj speaks to Nawal Kishore Kumar on aspects of a rejuvenated Congress and the newly formed Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA):

What is the social background of INDIA? Should we conclude that as a part of its social concerns, the Congress is ready to give priority to the Dalitbahujan? What is Mallikarjun Kharge’s role in it?   

This was prominently discussed at the convention in Raipur and the party constitution was amended to provide for 50 per cent reservations. OBCs, Dalits and minority community members will be appointed to all posts now. The Congress is the only political party in India to have made a provision for 50 per cent reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, right from the booth to the top level, in its constitution. No other party has done it. Kharge played an important role here. In fact, we can say that it was at his initiative that this was done. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Congress has adopted the principle of social justice, it has imbibed it.

In Karnataka, the Dalit-OBC together backed the Congress. As a result, the Congress emerged victorious and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost. Don’t you think Kharge played an important role here, too? Also, can we presume that the Congress will tread the same path in the future? I am asking this because Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will go to polls before the general elections next year.

Most of the Dalit votes went to the Congress in Karnataka. That was the reason it won. Kharge played a key role in forging the Dalit-OBC front in Karnataka. Kharge’s thought process, his commitment, his capacity to take decisions – all are great. That is why we won with a huge margin in Karnataka despite factionalism in the party. The elections were Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi and Modi bit the dust. Like in Karnataka, we will forge a Dalit-OBC front in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana and win in all these states. We will contest the Lok Sabha elections along the same lines. People have now come to realize that on one side are Manuwadis and on the other side are forces of social justice.

As a Dalit member of the Congress, how do you see the party from the inside? Has the representation of Dalit-OBCs in its leadership increased? 

As far as the Dalit-OBCs in the Congress go, what I know for certain is that whether it is Rahul Gandhi, or Priyanka or P.L. Punia, their hearts are pure. They don’t discriminate against the Dalits and the poor. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government took revolutionary steps, which won the appreciation of society. For example, food security law, social security law and MGNREGA [law guaranteeing rural employment]. Then there is the Vendor Act 2013. A worker construction board was constituted for the construction sector. A law for domestic workers was also made. The Congress has done so much for the common people. Some claim that Narasimha Rao brought the disinvestment policy. It is true that Manmohan Singh and Narasimha Rao brought in this policy. It is also true that during the UPA regime three Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) were privatized. But at the same time, 21 new CPSUs were established. What happens is that sometimes these so-called Ambedkarites look only at the negative aspect; they don’t fight on issues, they only abuse others, and they keep on repeating the stories of their exploitation. But they do not fight for their rights.

There can be no denying the fact that the party has changed in ideological terms. As I said earlier, this was apparent at the Raipur convention of the party. But it is true that the savarnas are dominant and I have no qualms in saying that they are dominant everywhere in the party. They have laid siege to all the positions in the party. The Dalits and the OBCs are not getting the importance they deserve. They are not getting it anywhere. That is because they (savarnas) have a social capital, built over the generations. That social capital dominates. On the other hand, the Dalits and the OBCs, when they are in the same party, try to undercut each other. They don’t unite and end up losers because of their internal contradictions.

Congress leader and former MP Udit Raj

The Dalits want to know why no effort was made to include the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in INDIA. What is the truth? Is the Congress contemplating taking Chandrashekhar Azad on board? 

By refusing to align with the Samajwadi Party in the last Vidhan Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati paved the way for the victory of the BJP. Now, she is even welcoming the Prime Minister inaugurating the new Parliament building holding the Sengol in his hand. So much for an Ambedkarite party! Everyone knows that Sengol was presented to the Chola rulers. Are we living in a monarchy? As for not including her in INDIA, her outlook has always been negative. A request had gone out to her to be part of the united opposition but her attitude was always negative and she has been indirectly backing the BJP.

There are many small regional parties with a strong support base, though confined to certain pockets. Will they have any role to play in INDIA?

The BJP has been deftly using the small parties in different states. The leaders of these parties are ready to strike a deal in return for, say, making them or one of their relatives an MLA or an MP. They have the backing of their respective castes. They have four-five seats. The BJP sends its men to them with crores of rupees. And they easily sell themselves. But I think the Congress should initiate dialogue with the small parties. It has not done so thus far. 

The Congress has been changing its stand, for instance on the issue of caste census or on supporting the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the Delhi ordinance. Is this being done only to keep the opposition together or does it have a roadmap?

Yes. The Congress has been changing. We all saw how it backed caste census. Also, at the Raipur convention, it gave its nod to 50 per cent reservation at every level. Then, it chose an influential Dalit leader as its national president. What is apparent does not need to be proved. Caste census is an important issue and is in everyone’s interest. When the Congress saw that the Manuwadis are now voting for the BJP, it broke free from the Manuwadis. 

The BJP is trying to fashion a narrative against INDIA. And this effort is being led by none other than Prime Minister Modi. What have you to say on this? How would the constituents of INDIA defend their narrative?

The prime minister is doing this round the clock. He could go to any extent against INDIA. He could get a Pulwana, Godhra or a Manipur reenacted. He is linking INDIA with terrorists. But he won’t be able to do much. The united opposition will uproot him. That is why the Prime Minister is afraid.  

(Translated from the Hindi original by Amrish Herdenia)

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in)

About The Author

Nawal Kishore Kumar

Nawal Kishore Kumar is Editor (Hindi), Forward Press

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