Congress says BSP's icons are not its own.
Looking to garner Dalit votes during the 2012 assembly polls, the Congress has started a campaign, Saajhi Virasat Saajhi Shahadat Abhiyaan ( composite legacy of martyrdom), which focuses on the state's unsung heroes during the freedom struggle.
The campaign also directly challenges the Dalit icons used by the BSP all this while.
The Congress feels that these icons are " imported". The BSP has been using icons B. R. Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule, Shahu Maharaj, Periyar Ramaswamy and Sri Narayana Guru in their frequent campaigns in the state.
The Congress, digging into the freedom struggle archives, says apart from Ambedkar, all the other icons of the BSP were social reformers of their own regions.
" The BSP's bahujan samaj ideology is exclusionist in nature. Mayawati is importing icons from outside. Our effort is to highlight the participation of freedom fighters from Uttar Pradesh who belong to various castes and religions," says Amaresh Misra, convener of the Congress's frontal organisation, Anti- Communal Front, and the key organiser of the campaign.
The Congress has done some research on the subject.
It now wants to highlight the role of about 5,000 unsung heroes from the state. " Dalits, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Yadavs and Muslims fought the War of Independence together. The BSP failed to focus on the works of the leaders of Dalit communities from the state. Our effort is to show that everyone was together during the freedom struggle," Misra adds.
According to the Congress leader, Ambedkar has a national face. But the other four icons of the BSP had a limited role to play.
" Jyotirao Phule has influenced Maharashtra. Shahu Maharaj's activities are limited to Kolapur. Periyar Ramaswamy is an icon from Tamil Nadu and Sri Narayana Guru challenged the caste system in Kerala. But when it comes to Uttar Pradesh, these reformists do not have a role," Misra says.
Misra is close to AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh.
Singh and AICC secretary Avinash Pande are the main inspiration behind the campaign.
Singh has attended the programme held in Shahjahanpur.
AICC general secretary and party icon Rahul Gandhi is also showing immense interest in the campaign.
He is scheduled to attend one of the programmes in September.
The party will hold 56 functions as part of the campaign.
The programmes, started in May at Bareilly, will culminate next May in Lucknow.
The BSP, however, is not impressed with the Congress's research work.
" The Congress is a slowlearner.
They have decided to hold a caste census after a gap of 80 years. Dalit renaissance was never an agenda for the party. If they are doing anything for the Dalits, that would eventually help us because the BSP is the party of the Dalits," says BSP treasurer and MP Rajan Ambeth.
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