New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi on Monday promised a "special package" for Dalits in the Congress's Gujarat manifesto with "economic, social and legal guarantees" for the community.
"Justice for the Una atrocity should not be your demand. It is a legal imperative. It is not a gift by any government, it is your right," the Congress vice-president said at a meeting with Scheduled Caste leaders in Patan, referring to the thrashing of Dalit youths who skinned dead cattle by cow vigilantes in Una last year.
"You meet our manifesto committee; articulate your concerns and expectations before them. Once our manifesto makes a commitment, it is my job to get them fulfilled. The chief minister who doesn't deliver on the manifesto commitment will be removed," Rahul added.
K. Raju, the chief of the Congress's SC cell, told The Telegraph that the party would "hold a convention on Dalit issues in Gujarat" ahead of the December 9 and 14 Assembly elections.
"When (Dalit leader) Jignesh Mewani met Rahulji, he said there are around 22 organisations working for the cause of Dalits in the state. We will call all of them, apart from activists who are fighting for social justice, to comprehensively deal with Dalit issues in our manifesto."
The Congress has already launched the process of preparing the "People's Manifesto" and a team led by technocrat Sam Pitroda and manifesto committee chief Madhusudan Mistry are meeting various sections of society to understand their concerns and pick ideas from the ground. On Monday, the team interacted with professionals, industrialists and academics in Surat, following up on their meetings since November 9 in Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Jamnagar.
Rahul has been insisting the manifesto should not be made by "experts" in closed rooms as the true concerns of the people could be reflected in the party's agenda only if they participate in a consultative process. Pitroda had a Facebook session with the people of Gujarat on November 6 before starting the interactive process.
Pitroda, a native of Gujarat, said on Monday: "There seems a consensus among the people that rampant privatisation under successive BJP governments has made quality education and healthcare inaccessible for the common man." Rahul has been saying that costly education and healthcare has affected Dalits and tribals most.
At the Patan meeting, Rahul promised justice to Dalits and tribals if the Congress is voted to power. "The RSS believes in Manusmriti and talks of the Constitution only under compulsion. They want to maintain status quo in terms of caste. I am against the caste system; a system that discriminates against people needs to be scrapped."