Lucknow: With 22 percent Dalit voters likely to play a pivotal role in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2012, all the leading political parties are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to prove themselves as ‘Messiah of Dalits’.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo and state Chief Minister Mayawati, who has acclaimed herself as ‘Dalit Ki Beti’, is being regarded as the front runner to grab the maximum votes of the community. Undeterred by the fact, the other political parties including the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal are making desperate efforts to make a dent in the BSP vote bank.

The recent proximity of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi with the Dalits in UP has set several tongues wagging in the state. Simultaneously, other political parties are busy downsizing the visits of Gandhi to Dalit dominated areas of UP.

The Congress is eager to win its traditional voters-Dalits, who switched over their loyalties to the BJP during the Ram Temple movement. Later, Kanshi Ram emerged as a harbinger of the Dalit politics, which helped Mayawati guiding BSP to power in the state.

After voting the BSP to power in 2007 UP assembly polls, the Dalit voters changed their opinion in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In 2009, out of the 17 reserved Lok Sabha seats the Samajwadi Party won on 10 seats, whereas two each went in favour of the Congress and the BSP.

Baharaich Congress parliamentarian PL Punia has been given the responsibility to blunt the edge of the BSP in the 2012 Assembly polls. Once termed as a close ally of Mayawati, the former bureaucrat has fast grown as a popular Congress leader.

With the aim to woo the Dalits, the Congress is going to conduct Dalit panchayat at every Divisional Headquarters in the state. The party has constituted a special committee to highlight Dalit cause in its manifesto. The Congress is mulling to announce a bailout package for the Dalits under debts.

The BJP is also trying hard to gain support from the Dalit community. The party high command has directed the state leaders to expose the tall claims of the BSP government during its Dalit conferences.

Mayawati’s archrival and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is all set to highlight the negligence of Dalits in the BSP tenure. The SP has made elaborate plans to convince the Dalit voters. Meanwhile, Rashtriya Lok Dal will plan it’s policy on Dalits in a two-day party camp in Varanasi starting from July 29.

(JPN/Bureau)