When the assembly speaker openly challenged in the House by the opposition and a cop manhandled by them both happen to be Dalits, MLAs of ruling parties can well turn this coincidence into a political opportunity to play the caste card and project the opposition as "anti-Dalit".
is exactly what happened in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Thursday when SAD-BJP MLAs condemned the Congress legislators who created a ruckus in the House the previous day.
Revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, an SAD MLA from Tarn Taran, went to the extent of sounding a preposterous warning to the Congress during the debate on a privilege motion moved for the suspension of nine Congress MLAs for their misconduct: "Punjab could face the ire of Dalits again, as it had witnessed after the murder of their saint in Vienna, if strict action is not taken against the Congress MLAs."
Demanding the suspension of the MLAs for the rest of the session, Majithia said the Dalit community was "very much hurt" by the thrashing of a Dalit cop by Congress leaders.
Soon after parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal moved the motion, SAD-BJP MLAs from reserved constituencies started condemning the Congress MLAs for thrashing head constable Jaipal Singh "for being a Dalit".
"I was angry and felt like crying when I saw our community under attack… our Dalit brother (the cop) was on duty," said Baljit Singh Jalal Usma, an SAD MLA from Jandiala Guru.
Turning to speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, he said, "Speaker sahib, you are also one of us, rangrete Guru ke bete (the downtrodden are children of the Guru, as per a proverb traditionally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh)."
Referring to Atwal, SAD MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu said, "I am pained to learn that the Congress has hatred for a personality like you who has also held the post of deputy speaker in the Lok Sabha. It is evident that the Congress has nothing to do with Dalits."
Mohinder Kaur Josh (SAD) and Som Parkash (BJP) also expressed solidarity with the speaker and the cop.
Som Parkash alleged that the Congress was hell-bent on exploiting the coincidence that the woman who was publicly assaulted by cops in Tarn Taran was a Dalit.
"The misconduct of Congress MLAs, who even occupied your chair, is not only an insult to you, but also a violation of the sanctity of the House," he said.
BJP MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, however, said it was unfortunate that the precious time of the budget session was being wasted in such a manner. "We are wasting this opportunity to discuss issues crucial to the state," she said.
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