The Congress rank and file in Telangana has got a tongue-lashing from the high command over its failure to protest against the anti-Dalit remarks made by Raja Singh, BJP MLA from Hyderabad. The riot act was read out to the top leadership of the state unit on Wednesday morning and office-bearers were told to shun their laidback approach and get their hands dirty on the field.
On Sunday, Raja Singh had put out a video on his Facebook page, calling Dalits who indulge in cow slaughter 'galeez' (filthy). Justifying the assault on Dalits in Una in Gujarat by cow vigilante groups, Raja Singh said, "Those Dalits who were taking the cow, the cow meat, those who were beaten, it was a very good thing to happen."
Now for a party like the Congress, that had gone big on the Rohith Vemula suicide at Hyderabad Central University, the 38-year-old MLA's anti-Dalit outburst was an issue being given to it on a platter. Especially since Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had come twice to the University earlier this year, identifying himself and the party closely with the Dalit cause.
It is surprising that no one in the Telangana Congress even thought of reacting to Raja Singh's comments coming so soon after the huge Dalit rally in Gujarat on Sunday and the national outrage over the beating up of Dalits in Una. What has upset the high command more is that the Aam Aadmi Party, which has a negligible presence in Hyderabad, staged a protest with Delhi leader Somnath Bharti flying in to lead it, but Congress remained in silent mode.
The Congress has now been ordered to lay siege to Raja Singh's home and/or the BJP office in Hyderabad on Thursday with at least 5,000 activists. The cadre has been told to "make its presence felt", leaving the how to do that, open to interpretation by those on the ground. An emergency meeting has been called on Wednesday afternoon, where Raja Singh's Facebook video also will be played out for those who have not even seen it yet.
Sources in the Congress point out that Goshamahal, the assembly constituency that Raja Singh represents, was till 2014, a Congress stronghold, with former State Minister Mukesh Goud representing it. Which is why Delhi is seething at the state and city unit missing out on an opportunity to corner the BJP.
The party bosses in Hyderabad have also been told to file a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Act against Raja Singh, since the recording of the video took place in the city. The intention is to test the Telangana Rashtra Samiti government and grab the opportunity to attack K Chandrasekhar Rao if his police do not take action against Raja Singh.
The BJP is yet to make up its mind on how to deal with its rabble-rouser MLA. For now, it has asked him to lie low and he won't be sharing the stage with Prime minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Hyderabad on 7 August. If the BJP feels the heat of the protests, it may issue a show cause notice to Raja Singh. But the party is divided over whether Dayashankar Singh-like treatment should be meted out to him. The BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh was expelled from the party for calling Mayawati a prostitute.
That is because Raja Singh even otherwise does not care much for the party apparatus in Telangana. He operates on his own and with his strident Hindutva image, is quite popular among right-wing voters in Goshamahal, a predominantly Hindu constituency.
Raja Singh also has a strong backing of the RSS and with his involvement in gau rakshak dals, he is known to take a strong anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim stance, especially when it comes to cow slaughter and terrorism. Many in the party point out that should the BJP want to run a polarised election campaign in UP, Raja Singh with his divisive rhetoric may just be the tonic the doctor would order for Amit Shah.