BATHINDA/CHANDIGARH: An exhortation to voters by Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi to keep out “all the UP, Bihar and Delhi de bhaiye”, uttered to claps of approval from “Punjaban” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on Wednesday led his political rivals to slam the poll pitch as being inherently divisive and an insult to the state’s migrant population.
In a video clip of Channi’s speech at Ropar on Tuesday that has since gone viral, he is heard saying in Punjabi, “Priyanka Gandhi is the daughter-in-law of Punjab, she is of Punjab. All Punjabis must get together to oust those from UP, Bihar and Delhi who come here to rule”.
Reservation of jobs for natives is already an emotive poll issue, with Congress batting for a 100% quota and BJP’s manifesto promising 75% local reservation in state government vacancies and 50% in the private sector.
Delhi CM and AAP’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal was among the first to lash out at Channi, terming his remarks “very shameful”.
“This whole country is one. He keeps calling me ‘kaala, kaala’ as well. Rahul Gandhi, too, says I am a terrorist…Going by his stand, Channi should not allow Priyanka to come here,” Kejriwal said. “People of Punjab will decide on March 20. Whatever we may be, people like us the way we are.”
AAP’s CM face Bhagwant Mann also pointed out that Priyanka hails from UP. “That way, even she would be a ‘bhaiya’…They don’t know what they are saying.”
Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri and BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia launched into both Congress and AAP, alleging that their aim was to win elections at the cost of national unity and integrity.
Bhatia said the comment by Punjab’s first Scheduled Caste CM on the “migrant population” was characteristic of Congress’s strategy of pitting one section of people against the other. “It’s even more shocking that when Channi was mocking people from UP and Bihar, Priyanka was laughing.”
BSP national president Mayawati tweeted that the people of UP and Punjab should teach Congress a lesson in. She also urged of Bihar “to take serious note” of Channi’s “highly disgraceful” remarks.
SAD spokesperson Mohit Gupta, who shared the video clip on social media, said he was surprised at Priyanka playing along when Channi made the comment. “As Priyanka is concentrating on the UP election, she should have taken cognisance of it and apologised.”
As the controversy raged, Channi offered prayers at the Ravidas temple in UP’s Varanasi on Ravidas Jayanti and interacted with other devotees.
Punjab has a large number of migrants from UP and Bihar, especially in the industrial town of Ludhiana. Every year, hordes of workers come to the state for sowing and harvesting of rabi and kharif crops. Many have permanently settled in the state and are voters.
Ramesh Prasad, a migrant from Bihar, said even though the CM had used the term “bhaiye” to denote leaders from those states, “we too have been portrayed in bad light”.
The term “bhaiye” originated when migrant labourers started coming regularly to Punjab to work in its farms and factories. It’s a derivative of the Hindi word “bhaiya (brother)”, used by migrant workers to address each other.
In political discourse, the use of this word in the pejorative sense started when AAP sent a battery of observers from Delhi who virtually controlled and micro-managed the party’s affairs in Punjab before the 2017 polls.
Watch UP, Bihar and Delhi de bhaiye remark: Political rivals slam Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi


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