New Delhi, Sept. 18: When the name of K. Raju was announced a few weeks ago as chairman of the AICC department for Scheduled Castes, many Congress leaders wondered if anyone would want to quit his comfortable IAS job for an insignificant assignment in a party that looked headed downhill.
But Raju, who is well aware that most AICC departments and cells exist only on paper, gave more weight to Rahul Gandhi’s commitment to Dalit empowerment.
“During my interactions with Sonia Gandhi when I was posted in the National Advisory Council (NAC), I realised only the Congress can empower Dalits. Rahul Gandhi was serious about making a change. Being a bureaucrat, too, you can work for this purpose but political parties can play a much greater transformative role,” Raju said today, explaining his decision to join the party.
The senior IAS officer from the Andhra Pradesh cadre, who was posted with the NAC till he quit to join the Congress, said Dalits would be the biggest beneficiary of the National Food Security Act. No other legislation could be more pro-people than the new land acquisition bill, he added.
Raju, who readily accepts that the Congress has for long taken Dalit support for granted, is working on a programme of action to overhaul the party’s engagement with Dalits and hopes to reflect the community’s concerns in the mainstream discourse.
“It is a challenging job. Making Dalit discourse part of the Congress discourse hasn’t been done systematically in the past. I plan to have Dalit Congress workers in every village. We will ensure every district Congress committee takes up a Dalit cause at least once in a month,” he said.
The department Raju has been appointed to had remained headless for years. Recent appointments indicate Rahul is keen to transform the functioning of AICC departments and cells, which now do little or no work.
Ajit Jogi, who heads the Scheduled Tribes department, is not known to have attended office since his appointment a few years ago. Karan Singh, who heads the foreign affairs department, rarely visits the AICC headquarters.
The OBC department, headed K.C. Lenka, and the Vichar Vibhag (Intellectual cell), led by Girija Vyas, have little to talk about. The office of Khet Mazdoor Congress, headed by Samsher Singh Surjewala, remains locked all the time.
Major Ved Prakash, who heads the ex-servicemen’s cell, occupies himself by attending media briefings at the party headquarters since there is nothing else to do. The minorities department and the Hindi department are no different. For planning, research and coordination, there are multiple bodies with high-profile leaders as members but again little is known of their output.
An overhaul of the departments and cells was due after the recent AICC reshuffle but several months have lapsed since. Rahul seems to have now set the ball rolling for change. Not only has he brought in Raju, he also sent his close aide Meenakshi Natrjan to head the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sangathan.
Although this had created a perception in the party that Natrajan had been sidelined, sources said Rahul feels passionately about panchayati raj institutions and wants to develop political networks at this level instead of working through MPs or MLA.