‘Sidhu Has Harmed His Party, He Is A Bad Team Leader’

Dr Bhojdev Brar (22) from Amritsar says celebrities do not always make good politicians and all the good work by Navjot Singh Sidhu was undone by his image politics

Punjab politics is going through such confusing times, I wonder how things will shape up in the next few months when Punjab Assembly elections are held. I belong to Amritsar, the constituency of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is slowly turning out to be one of the most divisive figures of Punjab politics.

I feel he is eyeing the Chief Minister’s seat in the strategic state as in these important times (because of farmer protests). But the way he is going about it doesn’t seem very well thought out. He seems temperamental, hasty in decision making and someone who doesn’t think too well before taking a step. Soon after he resigned, another minister from the Charanpreet Singh Channi cabinet, Razia Sultana, Punjab Congress General Secretary Yoginder Dhingra and party treasurer Gulzar Inder Chahal also resigned from the party. This then becomes more about a person and less about the interests of the party.

I don’t think image politics can influence the electorate deeply if there is no weight behind their words. These celebrities or personalities cannot just bank on their image or previous charisma to get votes, they need to keep interacting with the people who voted for them and upgrade their understanding. There are so many celebrities who are good at what they do, but aren’t able to walk the long road in politics.

Metro Man, Mr E Sreedharan can be considered an example. Sidhu has walked a longer and more active road than most other celebs (17 years in active politics), but I feel he still doesn’t know the art of walking in unison with others, he still considers himself above the party.

Dr Brar with farmer leader Rakesh Tikait (left) and with Dr Swaiman Singh (extreme right in green), a New Jersey-based cardiologist who came to India to support farmers protesting agaisnt Central farm laws

And in times like these, especially in the post-Covid world, we need compassionate, considerate and calm leaders; leaders who have the capacity to listen to people’s concerns as much as they can speak. Covid has shown us how each leader is important right from the ward level to the Prime Minister level and we can’t be lax with who we choose to power.

Sidhu has done some good work in Amritsar like building road, strengthening the metro bus service, but he should also look into important matters like reducing corruption at all levels, strengthening the administrative machinery and easing governance in general so that people find it easy to approach the government on important matters.

ALSO READ: Comedy Of Errors: Capt On Congress Crisis

Moreover, I feel surprised why doesn’t he stand secure in his own identity? Why is trying to pit himself as an alternative to Captain Amarinder Singh? He should focus more on what is being and not being done in his own constituency rather than galloping off to Patiala, the constituency of Captain Singh.

If many people say that Captain Singh is growing old, then the ex-Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh led the country efficiently even at an advanced age, an Sidhu is probably showing the folly of youth. Punjab needs leaders who are cool, calm, composed and yet not afraid to take the lead, if the situation so demands.

I am keeping a keen eye on the news developments and in these times of social media boom, celebs image can fall down as quickly as they can be built. So people should be careful about each step in politics. They should aim at serving the public and not their image.

‘Dalit Representation In Politics Will Bring Social Change’

Swarn Singh, 47, a Ramdasia Sikh farmer in Ropar, Punjab, says the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi as Chief Minister will help alleviate discrimination faced by lower castes in the state

Punjab has the highest Dalit population among all the states in the country. Therefore, the fact that Charanjit Singh Channi was chosen as the Chief Minister means so much more than a symbolic appointment. Even though it came as a surprise, I feel Channi’s appointment will bring about major changes to the mindscape of Punjab.

It was a Dalit, Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar, who gave us the Constitution, and it is sad that Dalits have remained at the bottom of the pyramid, because they have little political representation. We are Ramdasia Sikhs and wanted to share that one of the biggest Dalit leaders Kanshi Ram Ji was a clean-shaven Ramdasia Sikh and he gave a strong voice to the Dalit identity.

Over the years Dalits have also begun to understand the importance of being interested in politics. We keep an eye on the news and ensure that we are not caught unawares. When the SC/ST Atrocities Act was amended in 2018, it felt like a watering down, a dilution of the overt and covert discriminations against Dalits.

However, later it was reversed the same year, and again in 2020 some changes were made. In a 2020 judgement, a three-judge bench observed that all insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

Swarn Singh says appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi (right) as Punjab CM brings hope to Dalits in the state

Channi Ji is a very educated man and I believe his ways will be different than many other leaders. And I believe his appointment will make Dalits more assertive over issues such as laws or directives that concern us. I would call it a strategic step in these times, as farmers everywhere and particularly in Punjab are restless and hopeful for their voices to be heard. You must realise that one’s caste matters when it comes to how much land one holds. Thus, the current CM’s appointment might bring major changes into people’s lives. I hope he will uphold the values and principles laid down by Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

Even though Gurudwaras are considered open to all, because the Gurus talked about everyone being equal in Sikhism, there is a subtle discrimination which prevails at the holy places too. One doesn’t feel fully accepted when a devotee is seen through the lens of caste. I myself haven’t faced overt discrimination, but I have seen others face it. Sikhism says: Sab Manas ek jaat, but people still discriminate because of deep-rooted, subconscious social prejudices. I hope that will change too.

ALSO READ: ‘Dalits Face Caste Bigotry Early In Life’

I am a farmer and live in a joint family of 25 members. So far we have been holding out fine with the land we own and the business my brother runs. But with the new farm laws we don’t know what the future holds for us. At such a time we are hopeful that Channi Ji’s appointment will safeguard our social and financial interests.

The pandemic has done a lot to remove discrimination, I would say. People have begun seeing other people as humans and not just as someone belonging to a particular caste or religion. It is a good change that has happened, the coming together of people’s hearts and the falling away of prejudices, even if only a little. However, it is sad that many people lost their lives to the virus. But I hope Channi Ji will ensure that love and brotherhood gets strengthened in these times and will work hard towards social equality.