Indian Express, Thursday, November 13 1997
KUMAR SHAKTI SHEKHAR
AHMEDABAD, NOV 12: Treading cautiously, Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan is all set to play his Dalit and minority card to build a political constituency in Gujarat.
Though Paswan has been to Gujarat several times in the past, in his latest visit he meant business: he not only concentrated on consolidating his foothold but also took up some Dalit and minority related issues with the ruling Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) supremo Shankersinh Vaghela. His goal is simple -- bringing the substantial Dalit and minority population in the state on a common platform.
``They (Dalits and Muslims) form the most powerful electoral group. If these two communities get united, they can form ministry on their own,'' Paswan substantiated after addressing a Dalit meet in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Paswan's outfit, the Dalit Sena, is being pepped up to emerge as powerful entity in Gujarat, which lacked a third force till the RJP was formed recently.
Paswan is strengthening the Sena by inviting members of all political parties to join it, thereby avoiding any direct conflict with them.
He is also using his rapport with Vaghela for earning credibility within the target group. It might be recalled that Paswan was the only Central minister to attend Vaghela's Mahasammelan in Ahmedabad on August 20 this year.
Soon after the Dalit rally in the city on Sunday, Paswan demonstrated his concern for the Muslims by contacting Vaghela from the residence of a Muslim corporator, Taufiq Khan Pathan, where he had gone to have dinner with some Muslim citizens in that predominantly Muslim locality in the walled city.
Paswan also urged Vaghela to release all innocent persons detained in the state under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). `` Please expedite the cases by setting up a review committee comprising ministers,'' he requested Vaghela.
Paswan had appointed Ratna Vora as the National Secretary of the Sena in September last year. She is taking active interest in rejuvenating the outfit, which was lying defunct for the past four years.
Vora has extensively toured 15 districts of the state to mobilise support of the Dalits, backward classes and Muslims. Vora initiated a membership drive and oversaw elections for the executive posts of the unit. Besides, for the 15 railway recruitment boards, Paswan has appointed four Dalits, four backward class members, and three Muslims as chairmen.