Panel set up to commemorate anniversaries of Malaviya, Motilal Nehru

A day after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati held a party convention for Brahmins in Lucknow, in a bid to retain the vote of the community which had tilted the last State Assembly elections in 2007 in favour of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Congress dug into the past to try and retrieve the support of this influential community, ahead of next year's Assembly polls.

On Monday, under the chairpersonship of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a high power committee was set up to commemorate the 150th birth anniversaries of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of Benares Hindu University, and Pandit Motilal Nehru, grand patriarch of the Nehru-Gandhi clan.

The members of the committee have been drawn from the party and the government: they include Union Ministers A.K. Antony, Sushilkumar Shinde and Salman Khurshid, senior party functionaries Rahul Gandhi, Janardan Dwivedi, Digvijay Singh, Ahmed Patel and Motilal Vora, Chief Ministers Sheila Dikshit and Tarun Gogoi.

The party plans to hold seminars and workshops on the contribution of the two men to the freedom struggle and the Indian nation, sources said. Apart from the big metropolises of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the sessions will be held at Varanasi, Kanpur and Allahabad in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

Culture Ministry plans

Union Culture Minister Kumari Selja, too, announced on Friday a year-long commemoration of the lives of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Pandit Motilal Nehru.

The events will include conferences, seminars in various universities and work shops on inter-faith issues preached by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, and photo exhibitions and release of CDs of Pandit Motilal Nehru's best speeches, she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rahul Gandhi kicked off his election campaign from Phulpur, situated on the outskirts of Allahabad, from where his grandfather Jawaharalal Nehru had won his first Lok Sabha seat.

For the Congress, once considered the natural party of the Brahmins, the efforts to win back their trust is through reminding the electorate of the sterling role the community played not just in the freedom struggle but in building the party's fortunes.

Mayawati's strategy

For Ms. Mayawati, on the other hand, it is by telling the community that she is willing to share power with the Brahmins. On Sunday, she tried to cash in on the age-old rivalry between the two premier upper castes in the State — the Thakurs and the Brahmins — by saying that the Congress's Digvijay Singh was the party's Chief Ministerial candidate, while the Bharatiya Janata Party's was Rajnath Singh.

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