Dalit protest against Badal on home turf is a danger signal for him


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, August 31: Lambi Assembly constituency in the Malwa hinterland is considered to be the most pampered in the state as it is Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who has been representing it since 1997 after he settled his now estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal in the adjoining Gidderbaha. This is the constituency which has been the biggest beneficiary of Badal’s largesse. But then charity is different from empowerment of the people.

The protest by dalit women at the Dalit Chetna  Rally addressed by Badal yesterday at Mandi Killianwali in Lambi yesterday is just the beginning. The real picture would emerge when the election is announced by the election commission and people get out of the fear psychosis.

Not that everybody is allowed  entry to Badal’s functions. Maura Singh of Kishanpura Patti village raised slogans outside the venue as he was not allowed entry. He wanted to meet Badal. It is pertinent to mention that Badal gives his ‘darshan’ to selective audience,  properly careened by the local  Akali leaders and the police under their command.

Two women from the audience interrupted him when he was listing the charities that his government has showered on the weaker and not too weaker sections.  One has to go through the local Akali leader to avail of the charities. The government was exposed and embarrassed earlier when the full page ad inserted in the newspapers carried picture of an 83 year old person  with a big smile as the beneficiary of the old age pension schemes. His application along with his 80 year old wife had been rejected thrice without assigning any reason. The issue is not of the wrong picture but that of selective approach. This put at stake the credibility of the Badal government.

It was this model that proved to be the undoing of the 34 year old rule of the CPI(M) in Bengal where all benefits to the people used to be routed through the local party leaders who turned corrupt. The Akali rulers in Punjab went a step ahead and they also placed police under the command of the Halqa incharge after re-aligning  respective jurisdictions of the police station. Punjab civil and police administration is now characterized by rampant corruption at the cutting edge level.

What is significant is that the protest erupted at the dalit rally. Over the years, it is the weaker sections whose support is bought in every election. The use of money bags  started from the Malwa hinterland before it spread to the entire state. Despite that, Lambi is one constituency where the people are vocal.

The best example is the Badal village itself. The village is so vertically divided that the Badal family could not have sarpanch of its choice for about three decades. The opposite was Tohra village where no election was held for three decades as the entire village would authorize Akali stalwart Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra to nominate the panchayat, not just sarpanch.

Badal pleaded with the people during the last two elections to elect him saying this was his last election. He is the face of the Akali Dal again as his son and party chief and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is more of a strategist than a mass leader.

The Killianwali protest is an indication of the degree of anger that might erupt into lava once the election is announced.

Of course, the Aam Aadmi Party that seemed to be aggressively on the rise stand deflated and has become victim of self-goal. However, this would not necessarily lead to the section of AAP support base shifting towards the Akali Dal.  It is the anger against the Badal government that turned into wave in favour of AAP.

With few months to go for the polls, there is little likelihood of the anger among the people getting neutralized. Winning support of the angry sections comes later. Punjab is presently undergoing churning  with crisis in the Aam Aadmi Party deepening every day.

Dalitprotest in Lambi and that too at a rally addressed by the leader of the stature of Badal does not portend well for the ruling party. He might have to work hard in case he seeks another mandate from Lambi.


Jagtar Singh


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