Trashing it as nothing but poll optics, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday ridiculed the Akali Dal and BJP promise of appointing Dalits as Deputy Chief Minister and Chief Minister, respectively, if voted to power.
Given the shockingly poor track record of both the parties, which did nothing for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community during their term in power, the Chief Minister said that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had failed to ensure the welfare of the 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,” remarked the Chief Minister, 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 remarked, 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.
Pointing to the pitiable condition of Dalits in the state under the previous SAD-BJP regime, Amarinder Singh said for 10 years, the SC community was struggling to survive under the rule of the most apathetic government ever in the state.
The Akalis did absolutely nothing for them, he added. Soon after his government took over, it went on to implement all the poll promises made to the SC community, one by one, said the Chief Minister, speaking earlier at the virtual state-level function to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti.
Recalling that his government, in its first term, had increased the “shagun” amount from Rs 5,100 in 2002 to Rs 15,000 in 2006, the Chief Minister said from 2007 to 2017, there was no further increase by the SAD-BJP government.
“My government increased the amount again to Rs 51,000 (effective from July 1, 2021),” he pointed out.
Similarly, under the Social Security Pension, which majorly benefits poor SC people, the Congress government increased the amount from Rs 100 to Rs 200 during the period 1992-97, while the SAD-BJP did not effect any hike during 1997-2002.
In 2006, his government, said Amarinder Singh, increased the amount to Rs 250, while from 2007-12, there was no increase under the SAD-BJP rule, which only increased it to Rs 500 in the run-up to the election, during 2016-17.
In 2017, the incumbent government increased the sum to Rs 750, and now, it has again been increased to Rs 1,500 (effective from July 1), to benefit 25 lakh persons, mostly SC, he added.