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Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s attempt to fire up nativist sentiments by asking voters to keep out those from UP, Bihar and Delhi is dangerous and divisive. By now it is par for the course for top politicians across parties to bank on religious and regional sentiment to woo voters. It is ironic and tragic that elections which help voters throw out politicians not working for economic development becoming the source for spreading divisiveness.

Even Priyanka Gandhi, who has stepped out of UP to campaign for Congress nationally, acquitted herself poorly through the spirited applause for Channi. Such rhetoric is worrying because parties across the spectrum are now promising job reservations for locals. They disregard the reality that migration is doing a world of good for the Indian economy, rationalising wages in labour-scarce states and boosting remittances to backward states.

Read more: Row over Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s ‘UP, Bihar bhaiye’ remarks

Disrupting this symbiotic process merely to garner a few extra votes or to target opposition politicians is myopic. India’s constitutional promise to its citizens allowing them to freely move across the length and breadth of the country has to be safeguarded at all costs. Ultimately, this vilification of people from other states has much to do with the slowing economy. Unless job creation accelerates, the country is likely to see more rhetoric and legislation that demonises migration. States must talk of growing their economies instead of erecting walls and subdividing the shrinking job pie.

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