Jitin Prasada at a Dalit hamlet

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Khadsar (Shahjahanpur):  Following a diktat from its top brass, Congress leaders are spending their nights at Dalit houses across Uttar Pradesh on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. Latest to join the bandwagon is Union Minister Jitin Prasada.

Shortly after the sun set on Friday, excitement started building up at Khundsar, a small village in Shahjahanpur. The Dalit hamlet is all set to host Union minister Jitin Prasada as part of the Congress youth brigade, out to emulate Rahul Gandhi and his mission of reaching out to the Dalits.

While the minister was hopping from one home to another, some Congressmen seemed more than eager to call it a day.

Then, it was time for dinner -- a simple meal of dal, roti, rice and sabzi. And as the night grew darker, they indulged in some local entertainment.

This is certainly not music to Mayawati, and the sight of Dalits huddled around a senior Congress leader may be an eyesore to her as well. But the challenge for the Congress is to ensure that they sustain this effort to ensure that it bears political fruit.

But their leaders are still shying away from making any long-term commitment.

"It's not a question of how often I keep visiting such villages. My constituency has many such villages, most in a worse off condition than this one," Prasada said.

But were the Congressmen actually following their leader? With a pillow for comfort and a net to ward off mosquitoes, some habits indeed die hard.

At daybreak, it was time to bid farewell and reflect on whether such visits will really tilt the Dalit vote in favour of the Congress.

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