By Anand Singh
New Delhi, Sep 16 : Worried over the decline in the Dalit vote share, once considered party stronghold, the Congress is planning to appoint coordinators for all Scheduled Caste (SC) reserved seats, ahead of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand Assembly elections that are likely this year.
“We are going to appoint coordinators in all the seats reserved for the SC in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand,” Congress SC cell chairman Nitin Raut told IANS.
According to Congress leaders, of the 288 Maharashtra Assembly constituencies, 54 are reserved; in Haryana, 17 of the 90 seats; and in Jharkhand, 37 — nine for the SC and 28 for ST — of the 81 seats are reserved.
The aim, he said, was to consolidate the SC vote share for the party candidates in the three Assembly polls.
Raut said of the 29 seats reserved for SC in Maharashtra, the Congress would contest 15 and the Nationalist Congress Party, its alliance partner, the rest. The strategy would be similar in Haryana and Jharkhand, he said and added, observers had been sent to all these states who would recommend names for coordinators.
A senior party leader in know of the development said, the work of coordinators would be to spread the party’s ideology and message among Dalits in these constituencies, and also how the party always tried to safeguard their interests.
The party would highlight the atrocities on Dalits by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in states, he said. The massacre of 10 tribals at Sonebhadra in Uttar Pradesh in July over a land dispute and how party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra stood up for them would also be highlighted, he added.
The process of naming coordinators for 17 SC reserved seats in Haryana has been initiated after appointment of Kumari Selja as new state unit chief last week.
In Jharkhand, the party will voice the concern over land rights and also highlight its stance against the Land Acquisition Bill.
Looking at the voter percentage of Dalits in these states, it was important to make them aware of works of the Congress that had always stood by them, voiced their concerns in and out of Parliament, the party leader said.
In 2014 Assembly polls, the Congress fared badly in the all these states. In Haryana, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda could win only 15 seats. In Maharashtra, the Congress contested 278 seats but could win only 42 seats. In Jharkhand, the Congress could win only nine Assembly seats.
While the Congress could not win a single SC seat in Jharkhand, the BJP won five of the 9 reserved seats. In Haryana, the Congress won four SC reserved seats,the BJP 9, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) three and the Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) one seat.
In Maharashtra, the Congress won only two SC reserved seats, the BJP 15, the Shiv Sena 9 and the NCP 3 seats.
The party’s vote percentage in these seats declined to 18.1 per cent in Maharashtra, 20.61 per cent in Haryana and 10.46 per cent in Jharkhand.
The Congress, which has been losing states after states since 2014, is looking for a comeback in the Assembly elections in these three states.
The Assembly elections in Haryana is set to be announced later this week, and in Jharkhand and Maharashtra later this month or earlier next month.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)