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How Charanjit Singh Channi can consolidate the Dalit vote bank in Punjab?

Congress party’s decision to name Charanjit Singh Channi as its face in the upcoming assembly polls may or may not do wonders for the party, but it has definitely sent a feeling of inclusion among the Dalit community in the north Indian state where the Scheduled Caste (SC) population concentration is nearly 32 percent.

Channi will be the first leader from the Dalit community in Punjab who has ever been named as the Chief Ministerial candidate by Congress. Neither Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) not BJP and AAP has named a Dalit candidate as their CM face till now.

More than political the affect of Channi being a CM candidate will be social among the Dalits of Punjab who have been discriminated against by upper castes since centuries. Casteism among Sikhs is itself a unique issue as the religion was formed on the basis of equality and justice. However those who converted took along their caste prejudices with them.

The problem of casteism in Punjab is so deep rooted that there are two Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in most of the villages which include one for upper caste Jat Sikhs and other for Mazhabis or lower caste Sikhs.

The elevation of Charanjit Singh Channi leaving a Jat Navjot Singh Sidhu is itself a strong message in Punjab that caste will not be a parameter for anyone to become CM in the state. Till now only leaders from Jat community have become CM in Punjab.

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