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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

SAD back to drawing board, may announce deputy CM post for BSP

Much ahead of the other parties in Punjab, the Akali Dal had taken the lead by announcing that if voted to power, it will appoint a Dalit face as a Deputy CM.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
Updated: November 26, 2021 11:32:50 am
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal. (File)

With Congress appointing a Dalit person as chief minister, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is yet to recover from last Assembly election’s rout, is back to drawing boards and may announce the deputy CM post for its ally Bahujan Samaj Party to woo the Scheduled Caste community.

Much ahead of the other parties in Punjab, the Akali Dal had taken the lead by announcing that if voted to power, it will appoint a Dalit face as a Deputy CM. The Congress, however, went a step ahead and, barely six months ahead of the Assembly elections, appointed Charanjit Singh Channi, an SC face, as CM following an intense infighting in the party’s state unit.

Senior Akali leaders told The Indian Express that recently there have been discussions in the party to specifically announce the Deputy CM post for BSP. It will help counter Channi’s emergence as popular Dalit leader of Congress and will also keep the BSP vote bank intact, they said.

While stitching the alliance for the next year’s polls, the SAD decided to contest 97 of the total 117 seats in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, leaving 20 for the BSP. After the initial list they announced, the two parties have made several changes swapping some of the seats with each other.

The 2011 census had put the SC population in Punjab at 31.9 per cent (2.77 crore), including 19.4 per cent SC Sikhs, 12.4 per cent SC Hindus and .098 per cent Buddhist SCs. In other words, every third person in Punjab belongs to the
Dalit community.

A senior Congress leader said Channi’s appointment as CM was a “child of accident”, which subsequently gave the ruling party a huge fillip, to counter the anti-incumbency and ensured that SC community vote en masse for it. “It will not be limited to Punjab alone. If the strategy helps Congress return to power in Punjab, the party high command will exploit appointment of a Dalit CM here at national level in future elections,” said the Congress leader from Majha region.

A senior Akali leader said that there was no denying the fact that emergence of Channi has posed a challenge for SAD-BSP alliance, but the party was working to counter that.

“There have been discussions at top level in the party to announce that if the alliance is voted to power, the deputy CM post would go to BSP,” said the Akali leader.

Punjab BSP chief Jasbir Singh Garhi, when contacted, said he was not aware of any such discussions within SAD, and added, “Currently, we are focusing on strengthening the alliance.”

When asked about discussions in the party to announce deputy CM post for BSP, senior Akali leader and party candidate from Bathinda Sarup Chand Singla, said, “There are all kinds of possibilities in politics. The final decision is taken by party high command after deliberations.”

The BSP had contested on 111 seats in 2017 Assembly polls and all of them, barring its then state unit chief Avtar Singh Karimpuri, had ended up forfeiting their security deposits. The party had a vote share of 1.59 per cent on the seats it contested. Prior to that, in the 2012 Assembly elections, BSP had contested on all 117 seats and 109 of its candidates had ended up forfeiting their security deposits.

Its vote share, however, was 4.3 per cent, marginally better than 4.17 per cent it had secured in 2007 Assembly elections, when it had fielded 115 candidates and 113 of them lost their security deposits. The party had recorded 6.61 per cent vote share in 2002 polls and 13.28 per cent in 1997. It was in 1997 that the BSP had sent a candidate to the Vidhan Sabha.

Earlier, Centre for Study of Developing Societies had released a report stating that Congress had managed to secure 33 per cent, 49 per cent, 51 per cent and 41 per cent Dalit Sikh votes in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 Assembly polls respectively.

The figures were 47 per cent, 56 per cent, 37 per cent and 43 per cent Hindu Dalit votes in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017, respectively.

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