If promises are anything, 2022 is likely to be a good year for the Punjab’s Dalit population with the Shiromani Akali Dal Wednesday promising to pick a person from the community as deputy chief minister if voted to power in the Assembly polls due next year even as the party’s friend-turned-foe BJP went a step ahead and promised them the CM’s post.
Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, meanwhile, trashed the promises as a political gimmick while promising that his government will spend at least 30 per cent of funds under all schemes for the welfare of the state’s Scheduled Caste population.
On the 130th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar, Sukhbir, in Jalandhar, said his party will also set up a university after him in the Doaba region, which has a large Dalit population concentrated in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala.
Dalits have nearly 32 per cent share in Punjab’s population.
“Once the SAD forms the government, the deputy CM will be from the Dalit ‘bhaichara’. We will also establish a university in Doaba in Babasaheb’s name,” said Sukhbir, adding that his party is proud to follow the ideals of Ambedkar. “We are committed to working for the weak and downtrodden,” the SAD chief stressed.
Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said, “if the BJP comes to power in the next Punjab Assembly elections, it would have a Dalit chief minister for the state.”
Chugh slammed the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal for allegedly trying to “mislead” the Dalits by “alluring them with false promises” of giving the deputy CM’s post to a member from the community.
In a statement, he ridiculed Sukhbir for announcing that his party would appoint a Dalit deputy CM, asking why not the CM. “The Akalis should shun the practice of picking up a chief minister from a family and also from a particular community,” said Chugh, whose party had an alliance with the SAD till last year, when it fell apart due to differences over the Centre’s farm laws.
He also ridiculed Amarinder for having made a “false promise” to Dalits during the last elections of picking a deputy CM from among them. “Both the Congress and the Akalis want to use them as a votebank,” Chugh claimed.
Amarinder, meanwhile, described the promises made by SAD and BJP parties as “nothing but poll optics”.
Given the shockingly “poor track record” of both the parties, which did “nothing” for the SC community during their 10-year rule, they are now resorting to “political gimmickry” to woo them with an eye on the 2022 elections, Amarinder said.
“Sukhbir Badal is now promising a deputy chief minister but has nothing to show what he or his party in alliance with the BJP ever did for the community,” said the CM.
It is ridiculous the way the BJP had quickly jumped on to the wagon to promise a Dalit CM if it is elected by the people of Punjab, he said, adding that given the angst against the party in the state over the farmers’ issue, even finding one winnable candidate would be a challenge for them.
Speaking at a virtual state-level function to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti, Amarinder claimed of implementing all promises made by his party for the SC community in the last elections.
He promised that his government will spend at least 30 per cent of funds under all government schemes for the welfare of the state’s SC population. He also announced filling up of the SC vacancy backlog in all departments on priority, while promising to explore a post-matric overseas scholarship scheme for SC students.
The chief minister further announced a special Rs 500 crore rural link roads project for Financial year 2021-22.
The project will encompass construction of new link roads to the ‘bastis’ of SCs and other poorer sections of the society, which do not currently have road connectivity. ‘Shamshan ghats’ and places of worship will also be connected through the project.
A special allocation of Rs 100 crore is proposed in 2021-22 for modernisation of villages having more than 50 per cent of SC population, he said. This was aimed at providing further impetus to existing grants in the villages having SC population greater than or equal to 50 per cent of the total population.
Smartphones will be given to all class 12 SC students in government schools. To motivate people to take up dairy farming, 150 village-level awareness camps and training at nine Training and Extension Centres will be conducted, with special emphasis on SC beneficiaries, he was quoted as saying in an official statement here.
The CM further announced that his government also proposes to provide 30 per cent reservation for SC applicants in villages under the ‘Har Ghar Pakki Chhat’ scheme, and a similar quota in the affordable housing scheme for Economically Weaker Section (EWS).
His government also plans to set up a BR Ambedkar Institute of Training at Jalandhar for competitive exams, including Civil Services. It will have 50 per cent seat reservation for candidates belonging to SC families. Other projects planned include BR Ambedkar museum and BR Ambedkar Institute of Management in PTU Campus, Kapurthala, Singh added.
With inputs from PTI