Observing that the life of an “underdog” is always difficult, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi Tuesday said that Dalits needed the “escape velocity” of Jupiter to achieve success, and promised to create a Dalit leadership at every level of his party.
Rahul’s comments at a Scheduled Caste conference were seen as a bid to reach out to the community, and came as his party planned to redefine its engagement with them.
He also used the event to launch a scathing attack on BSP supremo Mayawati, saying she did not allow other Dalit leaders to grow.
Rahul has been trying hard to reach out to the Dalits, especially in Uttar Pradesh where the Congress has ceded its Dalit support base to the BSP, with his much-publicised sleepovers in Dalit homes, but with limited electoral success.
Addressing the conference organised by the National Scheduled Caste Commission, Rahul spoke about the near absence of Dalit leadership. In an obvious reference to Mayawati, he said one or two Dalit leaders were not enough to take their movement forward. Lakhs of Dalit leaders are needed, he said, and added that there was an opportunity for the Congress to create leadership space in the community.
Drawing an unlikely parallel, he spoke about the escape velocity of Earth and that of Jupiter in the context of dalit empowerment.
“The escape velocity of Earth is 11.2 km/sec while that of Jupiter is 60 km/sec. In India we have the concept of caste. There is an escape velocity here also. For a Dalit to achieve success the escape velocity required is that of Jupiter. More effort is needed,” Rahul said.
According to Rahul, Dalit empowerment in India has taken place in stages: the first involving B R Ambedkar, who along with the Congress contributed in drafting the constitution and ensuring reservation for them, and the second led by Kanshi Ram, who used the empowerment from reservations to build a political outfit.
While he acknowledged that Mayawati did play a role in the second stage, he argued that she had captured