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The move is part of Congress strategy to take a bite of 41% OBC pie; party to form cell in states and hold more such conventions.

New Delhi: On Monday, Rahul Gandhi promised his party’s OBC workers that they would get their due when the Congress comes to power.

“I will bring you to the Assembly, Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha,” the Congress president said, addressing the party’s first OBC convention at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi.

The convention is part of the Congress’ strategy to court OBCs, who make up 41 per cent of the country’s vote share. Post-Mandal, the Congress has failed to make any inroads into the OBC pie.

The convention also comes at a time when the Narendra Modi government is planning to ensure subcategorisation of OBCs and reap the political benefits in 2019. The BJP has done a better job of deciphering the community — its massive showing in the UP assembly elections was on the back of considerable non-Yadav OBC support.

Attempting to fill a void

There was a time before Mandal, said Capt Ajay Yadav, a senior Haryana Congress leader, that the party had “top Yadav leaders in important states”.

“There was Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav in Bihar, Balram Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Subhash Yadav in Madhya Pradesh, and several other leaders. The party used to get Yadav votes. But post-Mandal, leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP and Lalu Yadav in Bihar took away all our votes,” Ajay Yadav said.

He hoped that with a new focus on OBCs under the young Congress president, the party will be able to develop an OBC leadership that will be able to attract votes.

In the recent past, Gandhi has made serious attempts to woo the community, especially Yadavs. In May this year, he appointed the lesser known Keshav Chand Yadav as the national president of Indian Youth Congress (IYC). Keshav is a party leader from Deoria, Uttar Pradesh.

Similarly, Chandan Yadav, a leader from Bihar who was on the party’s media panel, has been appointed as secretary in-charge of Chhattisgarh, a state that’s going to polls at end of the year.

“There are around six per cent Yadav voters in the state,” said a Chhattisgarh party leader. “With Chandan Yadav arriving, the Yadavs feel they are represented in the state.”

In Madhya Pradesh, Congress had replaced its state unit president Arun Yadav with Kamal Nath. But fearing a backlash from the Yadavs, who comprise 11 per cent of the population in the state, Nath is trying hard to placate the community.

On 31 May, he had written to Gandhi urging him to participate in the death anniversary of Subhash Yadav, a prominent OBC leader and father of outgoing president Arun Yadav.

“Late Shri Subhash Yadav was deputy chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and a prominent OBC leader. His death anniversary is being observed on 26th June 2018 at Kasravad in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh,” reads the letter by Kamal Nath. “Being in campaign mode, this will be an important programme in the Nimar-Malwa region covering 61 assembly segments. I request you to consider attending this function.”

Madhya Pradesh too will vote at the end of this year.

To form OBC cells

Apart from organising similar OBC conventions, the Congress is looking at constituting OBC cells in each of its state units.

“We have asked state leaders to form an OBC cell as early as possible in each state,” said Tamradhwaj Sahu, the chairman of Congress OBC cell. “Apart from Yadavs, there are a number of communities within the OBC umbrella that have no representation in any party. If we work on giving them representation, they can also be with us.”

The OBC conventions are to be held in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, which will be attended by Gandhi. The OBC population exceeds 50 per cent in all these three states.

“Three rallies will be organised within two months from now in each of the three states. The dates will be decided once the local party unit comes up with a plan,” Sahu said.

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