Less than a year ahead of the Assembly election in Punjab the Shiromani Akali Dal on the occasion of the 129th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar announced that it would make a Dalit as deputy chief minister of the state if the party is voted to power in 2022.
This promise was made by the former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal at a function organised in Jalandhar on April 14. He also said that a university would be established in the name of Babasaheb in Doaba region of Punjab.
However, chief minister and Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh ridiculed the SAD’s move by stating that the party, which in alliance with the BJP, ruled the state for 10 years, had done nothing for Dalits, is suddenly reminded about them. He dismissed the announcement by calling it as political gimmickry.
Punjab has over 32 per cent Scheduled Caste votes. A sizeable number of them are Sikhs, known as Mazhabi Sikhs.
Analysts are of the view that since the Akalis have got weakened after they lost power in 2017 and subsequent farmers’ movement they are looking towards the Dalit votes. A sizeable number of Dalit labours from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh have, in recent years, become voters in Punjab.
Most of the farmers who are agitating are Jats and are not inclined towards the Akali Dal, largely because of its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
As Akalis would be going to the election with Sukhbir as the CM candidate it deemed it fit to play the Dalit card.
It needs to be mentioned that the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Kanshi Ram, was originally from Punjab. He had even represented Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat in Parliament.
Apart from this the state has a big following of Sant Ravidas, who was actually born in Banaras.
It is not only in Punjab, but also in Uttar Pradesh that a new social combination is being tried. On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti in Ghazipur on the outskirts of Delhi, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait and Bhim Army chief, Chandrashekar Azad shared dais and resolved to jointly fight against the BJP for the larger cause of farmers and workers.
The move is being interpreted as an exercise to bridge the gap between the Jats and Jatavs.
Earlier, the Jats buried their differences with Muslims. There had been simmering tension between the two ever since the September 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar.