Congress has attempted a different kind of social engineering in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh in a bid to beat Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav in their own game.
In a bid to widen its base in the caste-ridden politics of the state, where it has been out of power for last two decades, the party has reached out to marginalised sections among the same castes and communities, which these leaders broadly represent.
The party has attempted to dent the watertight caste compartments of UP politics by reaching out to sub-castes within Yadavs and Rajputs as well.
The party is confident that it will win all three seats in Mainpuri, where Yadavs are in sizeable numbers. It has fielded a former Samajwadi Party candidate who had lost the last election by a margin or around two thousands votes.
It is also trying to work upon the wedge between Ghoshi and Kamaria, two powerful groups within Yadavs. Mulayam Singh Yadav belongs to Kamaria Yadavs, while Congress has this time fielded a large number of candidates from Ghoshi Yadavs. Urmila Yadav from Karnal is a Ghoshi Yadav.
Among the Rajputs, Raghavs are considered less politically represented in UP. Congress has focused on them.
The party has fielded Rashmi Rajput from Bhongaon Constituency in Western UP, where BJP stalwart Sakshi Maharaj is contesting and is confident of winning the seat.
As Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh move into Jatlands of the western parts of the state, the party is also hopeful that its alliance with Ajit Singh and the sub-quota politics will fetch it rich dividends in this once BSP dominated area. 68 seats in Western UP went to polls today.
"Where there is a direct contest between BSP and Congress, we will win," says senior party leader Mohan Prakash, who believes that Samajwadi Party is not such a force here like in other parts of the state.
"In Western UP, Congress-RLD alliance is in direct fight with BSP in 35 seats. We are hopeful of winning these seats," a leader said.
As the Jats will play a major role in deciding results, Congress is likely to highlight steps taken for reservation of the community in various other states.
As elections inch towards their last leg in next few days, a senior Congress leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the party is hopeful that its strategy to rope in the extremely backward castes from among the OBCs and Ati Dalits from among the Jatav dominated Scheduled Caste category will pay off.
It is pinning high hopes on intermediary backward castes like Kurmis, Kushwahas, Badhais (carpenters), Dobhis (washermen), and non Jatav Dalits like Kori, Khatik, Paasi.
After Jatavs, Koris and Paasis are largest chunks of the Schedules Castes in UP. Congress, in particular, has given a number of seats to Paasis.
Under the Mission 85, Congress formed a special team to ensure party's better performance in all the 85 reserved seats in Uttar Pradesh as well as in four other seats, where Congress has fielded four more candidates from the Scheduled Castes.
The party is expecting a rise in its vote share among the Scheduled Castes after Rahul's visit to Dalit homes, which also invited sharp criticism from the opposition parties specially the BSP, which has been dubbing it as a "gimmick".
In an attempt to consolidate the anti-BSP voters in the Jatlands, the party is also trying to project BJP, SP and BSP as 'birds of the same feather who flock together'.
"The state has seen coalition government between BSP and BJP, between SP and BSP and also some sort of friendly arrangement between SP and BJP in which Mulayam Singh Yadav was chief minister and BJP had its speaker in Kesrinath Tripathi," Prakash said.
Insisting that "Congress will not participate in this politics of opportunism," Prakash rules out any kind of tie-up with all the three parties even in the face of the elections giving a hung verdict.
"BSP, BJP and SP are in consensus on looting Uttar Pradesh. These parties have come together in past and can join hands in future also. That is why all the three are attacking Congress even though we are not in power in UP for last two decades," he said.
Asked whether it is not the responsibility of a national party like Congress to give stability to UP politics and help form a coalition government in case there is a hung assembly, the Congress leader said the party has gone to poll with a promise of providing a clean, efficient Congress government.
"That is why we are seeking votes. We have already sewed an alliance with the party we had to. It is for the people to give us the responsibility. When they give us responsibility, we will discharge it," Prakash said.
Sources said a view is gaining ground in the party that hitching its wagon either to the SP or BSP will give the impression that it is their B team, which will kill its prospects of thorough revival in the Hindi heartland even in the long run.