Noting that Dalit empowerment in India has taken place in stages, Gandhi said the first stage involved Dalit icon B R Ambedkar, who along with Congress contributed in writing the Constitution and ensuring reservations for them.
"The second stage was of Kanshi Ram (late BSP chief) who used the empowerment from reservations to build an organisation," Gandhi said while speaking at a programme on National Awareness for Scheduled Castes Empowerment here, He said Mayawati had played a role in this stage.
The Congress leader maintained that the country is going through the third phase where the most important aspect is leadership development. "If you want to take this (Dalit) movement forward, then one Dalit leader or two Dalit leaders would not be enough. Lakhs of Dalit leaders are needed.... the leadership of the movement has been captured by Mayawati. She doesn't allow others to rise," Gandhi said.
The Congress Vice President claimed this was a big opportunity for the party, which has done a lot for Dalits in the past. He asked the party to "systematically" prepare Dalit leadership at every level- from panchayats to MLA to MP and even at the policy level.
Congress leaders have claimed that Dalits were originally with the party but were weaned away by BSP in the wake of the Mandal-Mandir agitation. The party believes efforts should be made to bring them back to their "original home".