Dalits in media, diversity in Cong, party mistakes: A 2-hour tryst with Rahul Gandhi

Here’s what happened when a Newslaundry journalist met the Congress leader.

WrittenBy:Avdhesh Kumar
Illustration of Rahul Gandhi and a table with five other people.

This meeting took place in December. Rahul Gandhi’s team still hasn’t released the video of the interaction.

When I met Rahul Gandhi with a group of fellow journalists, one of the first things he asked us was this: “Tell me, is Mayawati Dalit or not?”

Yes, we murmured. 

No, Gandhi said. “She’s not. She’s after power.”

As he spoke, I broke in.

“I do not know Mayawati’s personal life but she changed the lives of millions of Dalits in the country,” I said. “She taught them to live with dignity. We cannot ignore this. She fought a long struggle. Ambedkar Gram Yojana was a historic scheme she launched – it changed the reality in Dalit-majority regions.”

“The struggle was not fought by Mayawati but Kanshiramji,” Gandhi replied, referring to the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Mayawati’s mentor. “She got everything readymade.”

This was just one of my exchanges with Gandhi that day as part of a group of six Dalit and Adivasi journalists invited to meet him. It followed Gandhi’s press conference in October, when he asked a roomful of journalists how many of them were Dalit. 

“How many Dalits, OBCs and tribals are in India’s institutions?” he said at the time. “That is the question we are asking about institutions, wealth, assets and population.”

Less than a month later, on November 4, I received a phone call from an unknown number. The person on the other end said he was calling from Gandhi’s office. 

“Rahul Gandhi wishes to talk to you,” he said.

I confess to being surprised. I’m a journalist with an independent media website. I don’t report on the Congress and I’m used to chasing leaders for soundbites, not the other way around. 

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