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Kejriwal Promises Dalit Deputy CM in Punjab if AAP Comes to Power

Rupashree Nanda | CNN-News18

First published: November 25, 2016, 11:01 PM IST | Updated: November 25, 2016
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Kejriwal Promises Dalit Deputy CM in Punjab if AAP Comes to Power
A file picture of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal during campaign mode. (Photo: Getty Images)

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party National Convenor Arvind Kejriwal on Friday sprang a surprise by announcing that a Dalit will be the deputy chief minister of Punjab if his party comes to power in the state.

He also released the 18 point Dalit Manifesto in Phillaur Assembly constituency.

More than a third of Punjab’s population belong to the Dalit community and there has been a long-standing demand for a Dalit to be the chief minister of Punjab.

The demand was reiterated by the community during a series of ‘Dalit Dialogues’ organised by the party for the past few months. The state with over 30% of Dalit population has never had a Dalit either as Chief Minister or Deputy Chief Minister.

"This is a huge step in politically empowering the Dalit community," said Arvind Kejriwal.

AAP, which is campaigning hard in Punjab, hopes to woo and unify the Dalit vote in its favour. Two out of the four seats won by AAP in 2014 had come from reserved constituencies: Fatehgarh Sahib and Faridkot.

Harinder Singh Khalsa who won from Fatehgarh Sahib is now suspended from the party; Faridkot MP Prof Sadhu Singh is a member of AAP’s all powerful Political Affairs Committee.

Reacting to the AAP move of coming out with a Dalit Manifesto, Congress leader Sunil Jhakkar said: "I think first of all they are dreaming of forming a Government. We do not agree with having a separate manifesto especially for Dalits. They should talk of a unified Punjab, not divide Punjab further."

On being asked why has the Congress never had a Dalit as chief minister, Jhakkar said: "We will cross the bridge when we come to it. It is only Congress where a Dalit can have a chance of being a chief minister. In the Akali Dal, the position of chief minister will never go out of Badal family’. Though Jhakkar, however, added 'this time the campaign has been built around Captain Amarinder Singh’.

Political Analyst Badri Narayan said that with this announcement AAP will certainly give competition to both the traditional parties: the Akalis and Congress.

"As long as they do not announce the name of the deputy chief minister, both Valmikis and Ravidasyas could hope that it will be one of them. This will increase competition between the two communities and it could have a divided impact," Narayan added.

Acknowledging that this announcement is indicative, though symbolically of an ‘inclusive agenda’, Narayan felt that real inclusion can come only when parties start giving more tickets to Dalits from unreserved seats.

In the state, 34 out of 117 seats belong to reserved constituencies.

"There are scores of Dalit leaders in Punjab. This is a new party, with new faces; they are well educated and articulate and have a clean record," said Himmat Singh Shergill, AAP candidate and spokesperson.

To drive home the fact, he reeled names of Dalit candidates, like, Dev Mann contesting from Nabha; Santok Singh Salana from Bassi Pathana; Harpal Singh Cheema from Dirba; Dr Charnjeet Singh from Chamkaur Sahib; Harjot Kaur from Banga; Rupinder Kaur from Bhatinda Rural; and some others.

Mohan Singh Phalianwalla - BSP leader who joined AAP - contesting from Firozepur ( rural ) is also one of the hopefuls.

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