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HindustanTimes Mon,28 Jul 2014

Dalit face from Doaba likely to get state cabinet berth

Ravinder Vasudeva , Hindustan Times  Jalandhar, June 09, 2014
First Published: 10:41 IST(9/6/2014) | Last Updated: 10:42 IST(9/6/2014)

With Doaba looking set to get at least one of three cabinet berths to be filled by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday, hectic lobbying and speculation has started in the region.

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Two of the three former ministers of the SAD, whose ber ths are to be handed out to new incumbents, belong to Doaba — Bibi Jagir Kaur and Sarwan Singh Phillaur. While Jagir Kaur resigned two years ago after her conviction for the forcible abortion of her daughter, Phillaur quit recently after his son’s name cropped up in the drug scandal. Sources said the replacement would be from a Scheduled Caste (SC) community, thus taking the place of SS Phillaur as a Dalit face in the SAD-BJP cabinet. SCs are over 40% of the population in Doaba, where the SAD’s base has eroded drastically.

From the SC-reserved assembly seats in the region, Sohan Singh Thandal (Chabbewal), Mohinder Kaur Josh (Sham Chaurasi), Avinash Chander (Phillaur) and Pawan Kumar Tinu (Adampur) were seen as frontrunners, since all four are chief parliamentary secretaries. One of them could get an elevation.

Seniority-wise, the race is likely to be between Thandal and Josh, as both are MLAs for the third time, though they have no big achievements to show. In fact, BJP’s Lok Sabha winner from Hoshiarpur, Vijay Sampla, had trailed by 8,447 votes in Sham Chaurasi and 6,486 votes in Chabbewal.

While Thandal may still get a chance because of his reported closeness with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Josh may get the advantage of being a woman. Tinu is a firsttimer, thus not as likely to get the berth, while Avinash Chander recently hit the headlines after his close aide and Youth Akali Dal leader Gurmail Singh ‘Bhola’ was interrogated for suspected involvement in the drug racket.

Political observers feel picking a minister from among SCs of Doaba would be crucial now, as it would reflect the SAD’s strategy for the future. “Sharp decrease in the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) vote share and the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as an alter native is a dual threat for the SAD in Daoba, as the party has no traditional vote bank among Dalits. The Congress has strong presence among the SCs. If these factors are taken into count, it would be interesting to see if the ruling party picks a senior leader or a young face,” a leader from the SAD said.

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