Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday announced that if his party was voted to power in 2022, the deputy chief minister would be a Dalit.
Addressing a gathering after paying tributes to Dr BR Ambedkar on his 130th birth anniversary, the former deputy chief minister announced that the SAD will set up a university in Doaba named after the architect of the Constitution. He was accompanied by the SAD Nakodar MLA Gurpratap Singh Wadala and his Adampur counterpart Pawan Kumar Tinu.
Dalits constitute 32% of the state’s population and are concentrated in Punjab’s Doaba region, comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. A majority of them belong to the Ravidasia community.
“The Akali Dal is proud to follow the ideals of Dr BR Ambedkar. We are committed to working for the weak and downtrodden. Once the SAD forms the government in Punjab in 2022, the deputy CM will be from the Dalit bhaichara. We will also establish a university in Doaba in Babasaheb’s name,” Sukhbir tweeted.
On an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Ferozepur member of Parliament said: “We have been in talks but will make an announcement once a tie-up is finalised.”
All parties wooing Dalit votebank
The Congress, BJP, Akalis and the Aam Aadmi Party have been going all out to woo Dalits in the state.
In March, the Punjab government proposed to spend ₹100 crore on a BR Ambedkar Museum at Inder Kumar Gujral Punjab Technical University in Kapurthala during the budget session of the assembly. “The museum will be on the lines of the Statue of Unity in Gujarat,” said finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal. He also proposed a BR Ambedkar Institute of Management at IKGPTU, Kapurthala.
In Februray, the BJP appointed Dalit leader and former Hoshiarpur MP Vijay Sampla as the chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
In 2016, before the Punjab assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party also promised a Dalit deputy chief minister if voted to power.
During Wednesday’s function of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Covid-19 guidelines were given the go-by.
Poll optics, says Amarinder
In Chandigarh, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh trashed Sukhbir’s statement as nothing but ridiculous poll optics. The Congress leader said the SAD and the BJP had failed to ensure the welfare of Dalits in the state for 10 years and were now resorting to political gimmickry to woo the community with an eye on the 2022 elections. “Sukhbir Badal is now promising a deputy chief minister but has nothing to show what he or his party, in alliance with the BJP ever did for the community,” the chief minister said, terming it a political antic aimed at misleading the people with an eye on votes. “It was ridiculous the way the BJP had also quickly jumped on to the wagon to promise a Dalit chief minister if it is elected by the people of Punjab,” he said, adding that given the angst against the party in the state over the farmers’ issue, even finding one winnable candidate would be a challenge for them.