Rahul Gandhi’s Meeting With Pa Ranjith: ‘Dalit Agenda’ in Focus
When political campaigning becomes a do-or-die affair, even the casual meetings that our political leaders have assume a deeper meaning. On 11 July, Congress president Rahul Gandhi met Kaala director Pa Ranjith.
This was a meeting between a politician who has been focusing on the ‘Dalit agenda’ for quite some time, and a director who has strongly condemned discrimination against Dalits through his films.
Tweeting about his “enjoyable” interaction with Ranjith, Gandhi said that the two talked about politics, films and society.
But most importantly, he said that he looked forward to continuing his dialogue with the director.
It would be wrong to label 37-year-old Ranjith only as a film director. He is Dalit by caste, an Ambedkarite by nature, and an atheist by faith. His films are a unique cocktail of entertainment and political messaging. Casteism and especially atrocities against Dalits are issues that are very close to his heart, and this can be gleaned from his films.
Now let’s move on to what Ranjith tweeted after the meeting:
With clarity, Ranjith wrote that his “important” meeting with Gandhi was about politics and art, where the issues of caste and religious bias threatening our secular Constitution were also discussed. “A national leader engaging with people from all ideologies is very encouraging,” he added.
But his most significant message was when he wrote that he looked forward to their discussion taking shape.
Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Dalit’ Focus
Now, let’s delve into a bit of a flashback. On 6 May 2018, Rahul Gandhi’s tweet brought back the emphasis on the 2016 Una incident in Gujarat along with several other incidents of atrocities against Dalits in the country.
He also slams what he calls the BJP and RSS’s “fascist ideology” which wants to keep the Dalits and the Advisasis at the bottom rung of society.
Apart from this, Rahul Gandhi and his party have focused on the Dalit issue on several occasions, including during the Gujarat and Karnataka assembly elections.
On 23 April 2018, acting under the slogan of ‘Save the Constitution’, Gandhi had addressed a conference organised by the Dalit community. Even during the country-wide agitations against the Supreme Court’s controversial order on the SC/ST Act, the Congress party openly sided with the community.
Tweeting about the agitations on 2 April, Gandhi saluted “the Dalit brothers and sisters”.
Also in April, Gandhi had tweeted about another incident of atrocities against Dalits in Madhya Pradesh, saying such incidents reflected the ideology of the BJP and the RSS, which needs to be defeated.
The Congress' approach towards Dalit politics could also be seen during the swearing-in of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, wherein a picture of Sonia Gandhi and BSP supremo Mayawati indicated a future alliance between their parties.
The Power of Dalits
In the past few months, the nationwide protests by Dalits and discussion on issues like reservation has highlighted them as a vote-bank.
India faces four major elections in the nine months ahead. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will be going for assembly polls by the end of 2018, and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would likely be held in the months of April and May. Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh have a Dalit population of 17.2 percent, 15.2 percent and 12.8 percent respectively. Meanwhile, the country has a Dalit population of about 16.6%.
It is obvious that the Dalit community will play a crucial role in these elections, and the BJP is also leaving no stone unturned to woo them. In the past few days, several senior BJP leaders have dined with Dalits at their homes.
In this context, one cannot play down the significance of the meeting between Rahul Gandhi and Pa Ranjith. You shouldn't be surprised if you see Pa Ranjith associating himself with the Congress in one way or the other in the near future.
It is significant to note that two of Ranjith’s films star superstar Rajinikanth, who has stirred the politics of Tamil Nadu by announcing his resolve to form a political party.
In The End…
In his meeting with Rahul Gandhi, Ranjith wore a black t-shirt. But thankfully, Rahul did not wear his signature white kurta. If he had done so, the troll army on social media would have wasted no time in comparing them to Rajinikanth and Nana Patekar.
(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi.)