Maharashtra energy minister and senior Congress leader Dr Nitin Raut says his recent Marathwada tour has re-energised party machinery in the region. In an exclusive interview to Free Press Journal, he says “the bond between the Congress and the dalits and backward communities has been strengthened”.
Excerpts from the interview:
How significant was your recent Marathwada tour?
After assuming charge as Energy Minister one-and-a-half years ago, I undertook a tour of Marathwada on June 11-12. This was my first tour after inclusion in the cabinet. It was aimed at reviewing the progress of work in the energy department. On the sidelines of this tour, I got an opportunity to strengthen ties with the dalit and backward communities. It was in the backdrop of the ‘reservation in promotion’ issue, strongly raised by me. I focused on reviving and reforming the state energy sector and have aimed to provide power to people at cheaper rates. I reviewed the progress of various ongoing measures and tried to recharge Congress party workers and leaders. I sensed a huge unrest among the dalits and backward communities on not getting reservation in promotion.
What did you achieve from the tour?
I visited Aurangabad, Beed, Parbhani and Jalna districts. I got a rousing welcome from Congress party workers, especially dalits and Congress/backward communities; it was my aim to connect with them. Based on the spontaneous response, I believe that my tour was successful. Aurangabad is historically well known for its connection with Dr BR Ambedkar. As an Ambedkarite, I have a special bond with Aurangabad. I was welcomed at various locations with slogans ‘Kon Aala re Kon Aala, Deekshabhumicha Wagh Aala’ (Who has come? Tiger of Deekshabhumi has come) by dalits in Aurangabad. As this tour was held in the backdrop of my firm stand on protecting ‘reservation in promotion’, I received a grand welcome from backward and minority communities. The officers and employees wholeheartedly supported my stand on the issue. It created an atmosphere of enthusiasm among party workers, which reflected on their faces. I met several people, including senior Congress leaders, and workers of Aurangabad District Congress Committee regarding local challenges and issues faced by the party. I appealed to them to remain united and create a mass base for the party by taking on public interest issues.
How do you plan to rejuvenate the party in Marathwada?
Party office-bearers opined that a staunch leader from backward and dalit communities was required to boost the morale of party workers. I encouraged them by saying that I will be with them whenever they need my support. I assured them of every possible help during the forthcoming municipal elections. Local leaders requested me to adopt the Aurangabad district for strengthening the Congress party.
Do you feel that the tour would bring enthusiasm among party workers in Marathwada?
This tour has helped me rejuvenate and recharge party workers in this region. The interaction helped me to gauge the situation at the ground level. Dalits have been upset with other parties and are expecting support and justice from the Congress. Dalits from across the state expect strong state leadership. It is the Congress party that appointed a Dalit leader like me as Energy Minister. I am trying to do justice to their expectations by implementing various schemes. I have witnessed uneasiness among them on the issue of ‘reservation in promotion’. I am relentlessly trying to bring backward communities back in the Congress fold. My efforts have proved that the Congress gets mass support when it raises key public interest and policy issues.