All parties talked of giving something for Dalits in Punjab; Congress trumped everyone
Through a series of twists and turns, the Congress high command finally spoke its mind on Punjab on Sunday. Ahead of assembly elections early next year, it picked a Dalit chief minister–Charanjit Singh Channi– a first-ever from the community for the state that Pradesh Congress Committee chief Navjot Singh Sidhu was comfortable with and felt would pose no threat to his Jat Sikh leadership.
By Lakshmi Iyer
He had opposed the name of senior Jat Sikh MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa for CM’s post as he felt it could block his elevation post-elections. But here clearly, Sidhu seemed to have missed a big point.
If Congress were to only return to power with Channi as chief minister there is no way Sidhu will be able to replace him.
In this context, it must be said the appointment of a Dalit chief minister by the Congress was viewed as a masterstroke by Punjab Congress leaders as well as their political rivals.
That is because all major political players in the state were seen wooing this one community this election season. It was not just Shiromani Akali Dal that had tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party but parties like the Aam Admi Party and the BJP were talking about giving top executive posts to the Dalit community.
Hailing the path-breaking step taken by her party, Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee President Kumari Selja feels the party high command had acted, while other parties were only “talking” about it.”
Let us remember one fact about Punjab– it is a state which has a maximum number of the Dalit population– they constitute about 34 per cent. Every political party/ alliance has been talking about giving a Dalit deputy CM. The BJP also talked of giving a Dalit CM; we just beat them to it, ” points out Selja, a Dalit leader herself.
Channi hails from Ramdasiya community just as BSP founder Kanshi Ram did.
On its part, BJP leaders concede that Congress has indeed stolen a march. The party had talked about a Dalit CM. “However, the success of Channi as CM will depend on how he handles his job and delivers in the next few months. Also which way the Jat Sikhs vote.” With the tallest of the Jat Sikh leader — Capt Amarinder Singh himself conveying his ” best wishes” to his successor in office– Channi, the Congress leadership may have well heaved a sigh of relief, yet there are many who have misgivings. Among the Sikhs, the path would matter more than caste. This means the Jat Sikhs could move towards the SAD-BSP alliance.
Besides, picking Channi, who was a minister in Capt Amarinder Singh-led government, the Congress central leadership may have let down several aspiring loyalists such as Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Bajwa and senior MLA Randhawa. But then the leadership is never known to reward party loyalists and instead prefers those who have done some time outside the organisation.
Channi held the record of contesting against the Congress as an Independent candidate in 2007 assembly polls. After spending some time with the Akalis, he returned to Congress only in 2010.
Courtesy : TOI
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