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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Punjab: More faces in Cabinet, poll tickets to Dalits

With Punjab having over 33 per cent Dalit population, state Congress is now discussing if they should give more representation to leaders from the SC community in the Cabinet and also if more tickets should be given such leaders in the next year’s elections.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
June 15, 2021 6:57:56 am
The SAD has already announced that they will have a Dalit deputy CM if voted to power. The Congress has not been able to give any indication on accommodating more Dalits.

The ruling Congress in Punjab, which dubbed the SAD-BSP alliance as “opportunistic” and a “marriage of convenience sans any ideological foundations,” is now preparing to counter the perception that the Akalis have emerged stronger in the run-up to 2022 Assembly polls after entering into a tie up with a party that has a substantial Dalit base.

With state having over 33 per cent Dalit population, state Congress is now discussing if they should give more representation to leaders from the SC community in the Cabinet and also if more tickets should be given such leaders in the next year’s elections.

The SAD has already announced that they will have a Dalit deputy CM if voted to power. The Congress has not been able to give any indication on accommodating more Dalits.

“In nutshell, they have hit us in the perception. We are sure that their mathematics would not turn into reality in elections. BSP’s vote share had come down from 12 to 1.5 per cent in the previous years. In last five elections the BSP has not won a single seat. Moreover, out of 20 seats left to BSP by SAD, 13 are general seats. How do they plan to win from there?” asked a party leader on anonymity.

Also, the leader said, seats like Banga, Adampur and Phillaur, where the BSP was getting 15,000-20,000 votes, seats were retained by the SAD. In rest of the seats, they have been getting between 500-1,000 votes largely, he added.

At the same time, the leader admitted that the alliance had certainly changed the perception in the political scenario. “The Congress is now under pressure to accommodate more Dalits. We are now discussing how to adjust more Dalits in Cabinet and in other openings.”

The internal discussions in Congress are significant as several Dalit leaders are upset with the party. Cabinet Minister Charanjeet Singh Channi, who belongs to SC community, has opened a front against Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and has called a meeting of Dalit MLAs at his residence in the recent past to show his strength.

PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar, however, said that the alliance does not worry the Congress at all, “Of course we cannot take the alliance lightly. No political party should take such pacts lightly. But this is a coalition formed to save the very existence of Beadbdi (sacrilege) Dal. Their very existence is threatened and this is their last ditch effort to save the party. But this is not going to save them.”

He added, “The coalition is basically an opportunistic tie between the Beadbi Dal and BSP. Akalis know that sacrilege is still an emotive issue in the state. BSP is trying to gain on Akalis’ strength little realising that all Akalis have is drugs and sacrilege taint. Everybody knows they hobnobbed for desecration of Guru Granth Sahib.”

Jakhar also said that the ideologies of both the parties that have come together do not match. BSP supremo Mayawati should know that SAD is a feudal party and their earlier experience with Akalis was not good. “Their truck in 1996 did last only for a year. Akalis had adopted a use and throw policy for BSP, whose leadership would have forgotten that. I advise them that they should not be cheated again. My advice to Mayawati would be that she better not contest election from the state on Sukhbir badal’s invitation. I hope she does not want to meet the same fate as (former Union minister) Arun Jaitley. “

Rana Gurjit Singh, an MLA from Doaba region, known for its concentration of Dalits, said, “There is not much to bother about. When have they won a seat after Kanshi Ram?” he asked.

Another party leader, however, said the alliance certainly gives a boost to Akali workers. “Akalis have been struggling for their survival and they were not able to find candidates for several constituencies especially from where their earlier ally BJP used to contest. Those seats were anyway not expected to be in Akalis’ kitty. Now, they will get BSP help in the rest of 97 seats”.

A party leader said in last Assembly elections, several constituencies had a margin of less than 1,000 votes. If BSP is able to help them with 1,000 votes in such constituencies, it could turn the tables. Another senior leader said the alliance may end up consolidating 6-7seats for Akalis in Doaba but BSP was not a force multiplier, “They were with us in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Then they were with Samajwadi Party in UP. In Rajya Sabha elections, all their MLAs voted for BJP candidates. With BSP, there is always this kind of uncertainty.”

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