Opposition terms Channi appointment ‘electoral gimmick’
- Charanjit Singh Channi (58), the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab, was sworn in on Monday, a day after he was unanimously elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday termed the appointment of Dalit leader Charanjit Singh Channi as the new chief minister of poll-bound Punjab an “electoral gimmick”, and cautioned Dalits against the Congress’s “double standards”. The 117-member Punjab assembly is set to go to the polls early next year.
Channi (58), the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab, was sworn in on Monday, a day after he was unanimously elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab. The development comes two days after Amarinder Singh’s sudden exit from the state’s top post, after months of infighting between him and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
BSP chief Mayawati, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and currently an ally of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, welcomed Channi’s appointment but said, “Making a person belonging to Dalit caste as the chief minister of Punjab is nothing but an election stunt. I have come to know through the media today that assembly elections in Punjab will be fought under a non-Dalit leader and not under Channi.”
“The reality is that Congress and other political parties think of Dalits only in times of crisis.”
The Congress’s decision to name Channi, who belongs to the Ramdasia Sikh community, assumes significance as poll-bound Punjab has a population of nearly 31.9% from the community.
The BJP, too, alleged that Congress picked Channi merely to grab Dalit votes. “This is an old habit of the Congress. It believes that it can capture the Dalit vote bank by making a Dalit chief minister for a few months. A conspiracy is being hatched in Punjab to grab Dalit vote bank,” said party general secretary and state in-charge, Dushyant Kumar Gautam.
He noted that the Congress made Dalit leader Sushil Kumar Shinde Maharashtra chief minister in 2003, but replaced him with Vilasrao Deshmukh when it won the 2004 assembly elections. “The Congress has humiliated Dalits innumerable times.”
Hitting back, the Congress accused opposition parties for “insulting” a Dalit chief minister.
“I want to tell all our friends in the media, please, you also do not grudge the young Dalit leader and the role assigned him as chief minister of Punjab. He will be our face (in the upcoming state elections) along with Navjot Singh Sidhu which is natural,” said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
Alleging that the BJP, SAD, Aam Aadmi Party and BSP have “unwarrantedly, shamelessly and regrettably” attacked the candidature of Channi, he added: “We would urge Narendra Modi ji, J P Nadda, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Arvind Kejriwal and Mayawati ji to not grudge the rightful due of a Dalit’s son who is today the CM of Punjab, and instead of shamelessly criticising him, they should hail his elevation.”