With Charanjit Singh Channi, the Chief Ministerial face in Punjab, the Congress eyes Dalit votes in other states too — Uttarakhand and Goa which are going to polls on February 14. The party does not have high stakes in UP but it could make inroads in the Dalit vote bank which is with the BSP.
The Congress leaders belonging to the community are happy that the party has taken a big step forward. Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, who missed the Karnataka bus twice said, “The announcement of the name of Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM candidate of Punjab by Rahul Gandhi is a big step taken by the Congress party towards social justice and empowerment of Dalits. I applaud this decision and hope the people of Punjab support this historic decision.”
Kharge too belongs to the SC community and has been stalwart in the state but was overlooked.
After a Dalit CM in Punjab, the Congress is eyeing gains in Uttarakhand but it is unlikely that the party will get much traction in UP as Mayawati is a formidable force in the state and non-Jatav Dalits have mostly aligned with the BJP.
Political observers believe the decision of the Congress in Punjab, which is witnessing a five-corner contest, is to woo the Dalit Sikh votes that constitute 32 per cent, under the leadership of three-time legislator Channi, the state’s first Dalit Chief Minister.
Channi after the announcement said, “I sincerely thank the Congress High Command and people of Punjab for bestowing their trust in me. As you have seen us work so hard in the last 111 days to take Punjab forward, I assure you to take Punjab and Punjabis on the path of progress with new zeal and dedication.”
But the Congress politics is not limited to just Punjab. The party wants to gain maximum traction in the hill state of Uttarakhand and also tap the public which is upset with BSP Supremo Mayawati. The Congress has already distributed ticket to the people who are from the lower strata or have been victimized.
With this Congress is trying to bring back its traditional voters — the Scheduled Caste, Minority and Brahmin which are scattered in three parties in the state which sends highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. The Congress has just one MP from the state while in 2009 it had 23, highest in recent times and was the number one party in terms of the MPs but later it could not hold on and the situation became worse.