Tuesday, October 26, 2021

What Dalit Leader Yashpal Arya’s Homecoming Means for Congress Ahead of Uttarakhand Polls


After a prominent Dalit leader and transport minister in the Dhami government, Yashpal Arya, returned to the Congress fold ahead of the Uttarakhand election in 2022, the Congress is hoping to cash in on his Bajpur seat in Udham Singh Nagar district that has a sizeable Dalit Sikh population.

After how the Channi gamble turned out in Punjab, the Congress sees Arya’s Bajpur constituency as a “prized catch”, as most voters in Udham Singh Nagar district are ‘Rai Sikhs’ from the Dalit community. There are around 19% Dalit voters in Uttarakhand.

Arya’s four decades of career revolved around Congress except the four-plus years that he worked for the BJP.

“Congress is a sacred temple and I am happy to be here,” said Arya minutes after tendering his resignation as a cabinet minister. He joined Congress with his MLA son Sanjeev representing the Nainital assembly constituency.

How equations changed

As anti-Congress sentiment grew stronger ahead of the 2017 assembly polls, several prominent leaders, including Arya left the party, which ultimately benefited the BJP, resulting in its landslide victory. A total of 57 or 82% seats went to the BJP. However, the massive win somehow created a problem.

Leaders particularly Arya, Harak Singh, Satpal Maharaj, Umesh Sharma, who would call the shots in Congress, reportedly felt “neglected” in the BJP. Some of them struggled hard to make adjustments in the new party.

The freestyle politics practised in the Congress did not take place in BJP, and this became a trigger point, according to insiders.

Amidst the growing dissent, chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami called on Arya September 25 and talked it out with him over breakfast, but it seems it didn’t stop him from changing his mind.

The Dalit factor

With Charanjit Singh Channi being appointed as the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab, Congress has moved on to set a narrative. The Punjab in charge and former Uttarakhand chief minister, Harish Rawat, had said he “intends to see a Dalit CM in the upper caste-dominated Uttarakhand”, which could be Congress’s plan to outdo BJP in Uttarakhand.

A senior Congress leader said he agreed that more than “commitments”, “promise” is necessary to win polls.

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