Unease in SAD camp over Channi’s elevation
Chandigarh With the Congress appointing Charanjit Singh Channi as the first dalit chief minister of Punjab, a certain degree of uneasiness has crept into camp of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), even as the party has already firmed up a pre-poll alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for next year’s assembly polls.
At stake is the vote of 32% dalit population of the state, with every political party wanting a major chunk of it.
Political developments over the weekend, however, have forced the top SAD leadership into a state of unease and, mostly, studied silence, with its eyes on the Congress.
Channi, in his maiden press itself on Monday, categorically stated that he will work for the welfare of his community. As things stand now, the Congress government leave no stones unturned to woo dalits, something all parties in the state want to do. Towards this aim, Akalis have has promised the berth of deputy CM for a dalit candidate from the quota of alliance partner, BSP. Channi is elevation, is thus a bit upsetting, for the Akalis.
“Political developments taking place in the Congress party is an issue for our party. I think, however, that the juncture at which the shift of power has taken place (in Congress) it will not have a major impact on our prospects because it has come out as a delayed response to cover up failures of the Congress government under Capt Amarinder Singh,” said SAD MLA Gurpartap Singh Wadala who comes from Nakodar assembly segment in Doaba. As part of its pre-poll alliance, SAD has allocated 20 assembly seats to the BSP.
“We were hoping to mop up the major share of the dalit vote bank in the upcoming polls,” said a SAD leader on anonymity, adding that after Channi’s appointment as CM, things will be difficult for Akalis.
BSP state president Jasvir Singh Garhi termed the development as a much-delayed response from the Congress, as a dalit CM has been appointed in Punjab, but 74 years after Independence. “BSP is a party formed for the welfare of dalits and the Akali Dal has always given respect and support to the downtrodden community,” he claimed.
Another Akali MLA Pawan Tinu, who comes from dalit community accepted that the Congress move was purely aimed at electoral gains and had come on the right time for it.
Tinu, of Adampur segment in Doaba, said, “Dalits, however, are intelligent and Channi could make the difference only when he sorts out issues pertaining to dalits, pending for four years now. Can he expedite pending scholarships for SC students and waive debt of farm labourers, who are also dalits? The new CM needs to perform up to earn support.”