With an eye on nearly 32% Dalit voters in Punjab, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal on Friday playing the masterstroke by declaring that if his party formed the government in Punjab, the post of deputy CM will go to a Dalit. The announcement was made at a rally here during which he also unveiled the party’s 19-point manifesto meant exclusively for the Dalits.
Kejriwal said it was a historic announcement by a political party wherein Dalits have been promised a high place in the corridors of power. “Saari partiyan kehti hain hum Daliton ko ye denge, wo denge...lekin koyi kursi nahin deta. They only give you choice for MLAs, that too because of the reservation. But AAP is not here to exploit you for votes. We will share the power with you . Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram had stated that Dalits can only be brought in the mainstream if power is shared with them,” said Kejriwal, addressing a gathering in Dalit-dominated Doaba region.
Even as the gathering was less in comparison to other AAP rallies, Kejriwal managed to steal the show with his announcement. AAP’s all Dalit candidates from across the state were present on the stage. He said it will be difficult for the traditional parties (Akali Dal and Congress) to match what AAP has announced for the Dalits.
The Delhi CM also said that even seven decades after the Independence, the Dalits are deprived off their rights. “Look at the plight of Dalits in Punjab. A journalist just told me that 18 lakh students study in government primary schools in Punjab, of which 14 lakh belong to Dalit families,” said Kejriwal. He said AAP enjoyed full confidence of Dalits in Delhi where it won all the 12 reserved seats. “In Delhi, we delivered what we promised for the Dalits. We have started regularising all safai sewaks,” he said, adding Dalits are being given free education and health care facilities in the national capital.
Dalit manifesto: Old wine in new bottle?
Except for promising deptuy chief minister’s post to a Dalit, the Aam Aadmi Party manifesto lacks innovation. Most promises in the document are more or less the same as those of rival parties.
Concept of ‘mohalla clinic’ in Delhi has a mention in the document under the ‘Modern Pind Sehat Clinic’,, besides ₹5 lakh health insurance. The promise to provide free gas connection, along with burner and stove, to all Dalit families is already being implemented in Punjab under the Pardhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna. The party also announced free education for Dalit girls up to Class 12.
Why Dalit vote counts
32% of Punjab’s population is Dalit – the highest in the country.
33 of 117 seats in the state assembly are reserved.
With 23 seats, the Dalit-dominated Doaba is a decisive factor in power sweepstakes.