Eye on Dalits, Cong plans Ambedkar rally

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member

The Congress is all set to open the Bihar election campaign with a rally in the memory of Dr BR Ambedkar, architect of the Indian Constitution, in Champaran on September 19.
Earlier planned as a social event under the Congress’ ongoing 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Ambedkar, the rally is now set to become a political event with the Congress planning to invite RJD chief Lalu Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the event.
“Of course we will invite our allies for the rally. Earlier we had planned the Champaran Samrasta rally as a party event, but now that elections to Bihar have been announced and we will invite the RJD and the JD(U) for the rally. They are our partners in the secular alliance,” CP Joshi, Congress general secretary in charge of Bihar, said today after the Election Commission announced a five-phase schedule for the state.
Political significance of the September 19 rally is the likelihood of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi sharing the stage with Lalu Prasad for the first time since the Congress leader tore to pieces his own government’s ordinance that would have helped Lalu facing conviction in the fodder scam.
Since September 23, 2013, when Rahul gate crashed into a press conference at the local Press Club of India junking the ordinance terming it “nonsense”, Rahul and Lalu have shared a troubled relationship. That relationship soured further in recent times when Rahul backed Nitish Kumar over Lalu as leader of the grand secular alliance comprising the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress in Bihar. The move irked Lalu enough to ensure his absence from Sonia’s Iftar party.
With no thaw in sight in the Rahul-Lalu relations, the rally would be keenly watched to assess the grand alliance’s larger unity which has suffered in the past after the SP and the NCP walked out. Joshi personally downplayed the exit of these two forces saying: “Our original allies were the RJD and the JD(U) though we had hoped the NCP and the SP being secular forces would stay with us.”
Whether Lalu turns up for the rally which Rahul is expected to address remains to be seen, with Congress sources saying invitations to the RJD chief were bound to be sent to ensure a united front.