Bhopal: With five months to go for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, the Congress on Thursday sprung a surprise by announcing that Dalit leader Surendra Chaudhary would be the party’s choice for deputy chief minister post if it comes to power in the state.
The announcement by Deepak Babaria, AICC general secretary in-charge of state affairs, came days after Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party said it had not held any talks about an alliance with the Congress in the state and that it would contest from all 230 assembly seats in the election.
A BSP-Congress alliance in Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP has been in power for three consecutive terms, was predicted to be a game-changer as it would have helped the Congress greatly improve its seat tally with the help of BSP’s traditional vote base. It would have helped consolidate the Dalit vote bank as it comes at a time when the Dalit anger has emerged as a pivotal political fault line.
But with the BSP looking to go it alone, the Congress is wary of losing out to Mayawati’s party.
Addressing a programme of the SC community in Bhopal, Babaria said that party president Rahul Gandhi had handpicked Chaudhary as one of the five executive presidents in MP during a recent organisational rejig. This, he said, was done to ensure that Dalits get proper representation within the party.
Babaria, who has put his own party on a sticky wicket on several occasions in the past with his off-the-cuff remarks, said the party had a history of giving the marginalised important posts.
He cited the example of late Congress leader Jamuna Devi, who belonged to the tribal community, and was given key responsibilities like the post of Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly. “It’s the Congress party which has given Dalit President and Dalit Chief Ministers in the country,” said the Congress leader.
Chaudhary, when asked, said he would “abide by the party high command’s orders”.
The decision also assumes significance as Madhya Pradesh is one state where the Congress has a problem of plenty in leaders, with all three – Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath – all vying to lead it in the state.
Soon after the announcement, the BJP went on the offensive against its rival. “Congress has insulted the Dalit community by giving it the post of Deputy CM. Why did it not announce a Dalit CM candidate before polls,” BJP spokesperson Dr Hitesh Vajpayee asked.
Congress spokesperson Mrinal Pant hit back, saying the BJP hasn’t given any key responsibility to any Dalit leader in its government so Babaria’s remarks just assured the community that the Congress government would take care of their rights.
“The BJP government only insulted Dalits with caste branding on chests and slapped them with thousands of cases when the community protested for their rights in Gwalior-Chambal region,” Pant retorted.