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Dalit unions call Congress’ move to make Charanjit Singh Channi Punjab CM ‘poll stunt’, Mayawati criticises move too

While Dalit unions opined that this was Congress strategy to consolidate the divided Dalit vote, BSP chief Mayawati called it poll gimmicks.

The Congress on Sunday picked Charanjit Singh Channi, as Punjab’s next chief minister, after the sudden resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday. The Dalit unions in the state are, however, not quite pleased with the Congress party’s game plan to lodge a Dalit leader as the face of the state, with less than six months to go before the assembly polls in Punjab. They have termed Congress’ move as an election stunt, Indian Express has reported.

Slamming Congress’ decision to choose Charanjit Singh Channi amidst all the other deserving candidates like Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Ambika Soni the Dalit unions said the party was trying to kill two birds with one stone since Channi is both a Dalit as well as a Sikh.

The Dalit unions opined that this was Congress strategy to consolidate the divided Dalit vote into a single bloc before the state goes into polls next year.

“It is merely an election stunt. Channi is a Dalit as well as a Sikh. Punjab will go to the polls in another four to five months and a code of conduct will be imposed 40 days before the elections. So what can the new face do? He will just say I am a new person, trying to understand things,” said Zora Singh Nasrali, president of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union.

The general secretary of the Mandi board Tarsem Singh Sewewala said: “Till the time policies are not changed, a Dalit CM or a Jat Sikh CM will not make any difference. Now we will ask the newly chosen CM to chair the September 23 meeting with our Sanjha Morcha. This will be a litmus test for him and will show how caring he is about Dalits.”

“However, already Punjab has 34 elected Dalit MLAs. What difference have they made to our condition? Making a Dalit CM is to target our vote bank. Every political party is targeting us, so is the Congress,” Sewewala added.

BSP chief Mayawati calls Congress move a ‘poll gimmick’

Dalit leader and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has also slammed the Congress for its decision to induct Channi as the new Punjab CM just before the state is scheduled to go into polls. The former CM of Uttar Pradesh called it Congress’ poll gimmick for the upcoming Punjab assembly elections. Mayawati was quoted by ANI as saying that the appointment of Channi merely for a few months ahead of Punjab polls is a gimmick.

“I have also come to know through media that the next Punjab assembly elections will be fought under the leadership of a non-Dalit. This means that Congress still does not fully trust the Dalits. Congress is also scared of the SAD-BSP alliance in Punjab”, added Mayawati.

It is notable here that Congress general secretary Harish Rawat had announced earlier that the next assembly elections will be fought under the leadership of PCC president Navjot Sidhu. Even former PCC president Sunil Jakhar had called it ‘baffling’.

Congress playing ‘Dalit vote-bank Rajneeti’

Castigating the Congress party for playing Dalit vote-bank rajneeti, Bhagwant Samao, the president of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, Punjab said: “Shiromani Akali Dal did an alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party eyeing Dalit vote bank. They also announced that they will make a Dalit deputy CM while AAP too made a similar announcement. BJP, too, announced that they would make a Dalit CM. So, Congress has made a Dalit CM for few months to settle their internal feud. They are trying to give a message that while other parties have made announcements, they have already made a Dalit CM. It is Dalit votebank rajneeti. If Channi was so concerned, did he ever visit any of the dharnas where Dalits have been protesting? It hardly matters to us who the CM is.”

It should be noted that Punjab has the largest percentage of Dalits in India (32%). While the majority of this group was traditionally a Congress vote bank, it has gradually gotten divided. The Aam Aadmi Party received a large portion of the Dalit vote in the 2017 assembly elections. This time also, the AAP and the Shiromani Akali Dal are expected to split the Dalit vote bank (SAD). So basically, Congress is hoping that by giving the state its first Dalit chief minister, it may tip the scales in its favour in the 34 reserved seats in the 117-seat legislature.

Charanjit Singh Channi accused in #MeToo, illegal construction and illegal mining cases

Meanwhile, Charanjit Singh Channi has taken oath as Punjab Chief Minister, Monday. Channi is an MLA from the Chamkaur Sahib Assembly constituency.

In October 2018, Channi was accused of sending inappropriate messages to a woman IAS officer. The matter was ‘resolved’ to the woman officer’s satisfaction, reports said. The woman officer had alleged Channi had sent her multiple messages to which she had objected but he continued to send them. When one message was sent late at night, she had decided to object and escalate the matter.

Turns out he had sent an Urdu couplet to the woman officer ‘by mistake’ which she objected to. He, however, later apologised for the same.

When Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira was the opposition leader in March 2018, he accused Channi of being involved in illegal mining, a claim the minister strenuously disputed.

In another incident, the now Punjab CM was accused of illegally constructing a road from a park outside his official residence in Sector 2, Chandigarh. Within hours, the road was razed by the Chandigarh administration.

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