Punjab cabinet minister and senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Gulzar Singh Ranike said on Monday that Scheduled Caste (SC) or “reserved-category” candidates will “not be fielded from general seats”, that is, assembly segments that are not reserved for SCs (or Dalits), in the state polls due next year. He was replying to a reporter’s question on the sidelines of a meeting with SAD’s Dalit workers in Mansa. Of the 117 seats, 34 are currently reserved for SCs.
Update: Two hours after HT reported this online, Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Badal retweeted this report.
Ranike, who is the minister for animal husbandry, was evasive when asked about cow-protection vigilante groups in the state committing atrocities on certain communities and sections. “I am not presiding over the function as a cabinet minister. I have come here to interact with workers from the reserved category. I will reply to your queries in my next trip,” he said.
On a recent case of a Dalit family being thrashed by police personnel in Fazilka, the minister denied that Dalits were facing atrocities in the SAD-BJP regime: “No one can harass or oppress Dalits in Punjab.”
Meanwhile, he laid the foundation of a veterinary hospital and the expansion of a government hospital. In Mansa and Sardulgarh segments, in interaction with Akali cadres, he recounted welfare schemes launched by the government for the weaker sections of society in the last nine and a half years. Budhlada MLA Chatan Singh Samao, Mansa MLA Prem Kumar Mittal and other local leaders were present too.