Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Congress in Tamil Nadu Embraces Dalit Issues, SC Chief Ranjan Kumar Leads the Way

In a significant paradigm shift, the INC in Tamil Nadu has now deeply embraced the principles of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, placing greater emphasis on Dalit issues and representation.
Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Congress in Tamil Nadu Embraces Dalit Issues, SC Chief Ranjan Kumar Leads the Way

Thiruvallur- In the dynamic political arena of Tamil Nadu, the northern districts emerge as crucial battlegrounds, boasting a significant Dalit voter base. Historically aligned with the Congress until the emergence of cinema icon MGR and subsequent political shifts, these voters have now become the target of strategic campaigning by various political entities, notably the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a significant paradigm shift, the Indian National Congress (INC) in Tamil Nadu has now deeply embraced the principles of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, placing greater emphasis on Dalit issues and representation.

This transformation is largely attributed to the relentless efforts of Ranjan Kumar, the state head of the Scheduled Caste (SC) department. Ranjan has ushered in a new era within the INC by donning the blue scarf and raising "Jai Bhim" slogans.

This bold move marks Kumar as the first individual in the grand old party's history in Tamil Nadu to embrace such symbols synonymous with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's legacy, signifying a significant shift in the party's approach to Dalit issues and representation.

Kumar is recognized as a grassroots leader who effectively connects with civil society, particularly addressing caste-based atrocities prevalent in Tamil Nadu. His efforts have been pivotal in organizing Dalits and reinvigorating their participation within the INC.

Historical Context:

Traditionally, Dalit voters in northern Tamil Nadu were staunch supporters of the Congress until the political rise of MGR in 1977. With his charismatic persona and cinematic appeal, MGR drew these voters towards the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and later the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

Following MGR's demise, the political legacy was carried forward by Kalaignar Karunanidhi and the formidable leader, Jayalalitha. However, the BJP's strategic focus on targeting Dalit voters in the region has sparked a shift in political allegiance, with voters increasingly gravitating towards parties like the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and the BJP.

Recognizing the significance of Dalit voters in northern Tamil Nadu, the BJP intensified its efforts to woo this demographic. Employing strategic campaigning tactics and leveraging local issues, the BJP aims to solidify its presence in the region.

Ranjan Kumar's Redemption Mission

In response to the shifting political landscape, Ranjan Kumar has embarked on a mission to redeem Dalit support for the Congress.

Serving as the head of the Scheduled Caste (SC) department of the INC in Tamil Nadu, Kumar holds significant influence within the party. His tenure as the department head began around two years ago, during which he has actively promoted the interests and rights of Dalits within the political landscape.

Through extensive field visits, dialogues with civil society organizations, and data analysis, Kumar has formulated a comprehensive strategy to realign Dalit voters with the Congress.

Kumar's initiatives include the amalgamation of over 100 Dalit-based NGOs and organizations scattered across northern Tamil Nadu with the Congress. By fostering alliances and leveraging grassroots networks, Kumar aims to consolidate Dalit support for the Congress party.

In a candid and heartfelt conversation with The Mooknayak, Ranjan Kumar, shared insights into his humble background and the reasons behind his entry into politics.

Ranjan Kumar's roots lie in a modest Dalit family in Chennai, where his father worked as a government servant in a D-category laborer position. Growing up in a slum area fraught with economic challenges and societal biases, Kumar's upbringing was marked by resilience and determination. Despite the odds stacked against him, he found inspiration in the unwavering support of his family and the nurturing environment provided by his parents and maternal uncle.

" Whatever happened to all Dalit happened to me also. I am well aware since childhood about the way people see us and react to us. Growing up I could understand why this happened to us. Common community people look at a growing Dalit as a person with bad criminal background or someone who would have blurred the lines to get where he is. I have faced a lot of such casual attitude, despite all this if we still manage to come up there is a lot of resistance. In Tamil Nadu such discrimination is even high than other states. They always intend to pull us down with such thoughts and approaches, and till date I had to face a lot of cases falsely filed against me under such pretext", Ranjan stated.

When asked about his demand for a ticket from Thiruvallur, Ranjan Kumar passionately stated, "The ticket I demand is not for me, it’s for the party and the welfare of the party’s future. I am an organic product of Congress, been in the party for nearly three decades loyally."

Speaking further about Thiruvallur constituency, Kumar emphasized its significance as a major economic zone for Chennai. He highlighted the prevalence of industries and the continued dependence on agriculture for livelihoods in the area. Despite government mandates requiring that 50% of job opportunities be reserved for local residents, Kumar acknowledged the prevailing challenge of many individuals lacking the necessary qualifications to seize these opportunities.

Strategies for Meaningful Representation and Empowerment

Ranjan Kumar emphasizes the need for unity among Dalit communities to effectively leverage political opportunities. He acknowledges the prevalence of fragmented interests and self-interest groups within the Dalit populace, which often dilute the collective strength of the community.

" We have a lot of political opportunities for the Dalits here. Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar has created the reservations which provide a lot of opportunities for the Dalits via access o education and a result of which they get job opportunities. In fact the opportunities in politics are also very high. The issue is that there is lack of unity, and the fact that people operate in silos has led to many mainstream politicians and communities to exert their power on us. For example, there are several Dalit based self interest groups who participate in the elections, and stand independently, this makes a party-based Dalits opportunities to diminish or weaken. The way to solve this issue is by consolidating them under an umbrella and making them a part of the organizing party and giving them key positions in which they can operate with freedom towards the combined goal. Ever since Kharge ji has come to power in Congress, the opportunities for Dalits to obtain several positions has increased. When we bring all these groups under the Congress umbrella, it is very much possible to diversify the concentration of power from the mainstream politicians and enable the marginalized communities in politics. I firmly believe in this, there is a long way to go but I am sure that it is a possible path to tread," Ranjan stresses.

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