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'Just As Punjabis Go To Canada To Prosper, Migrants From UP-Bihar Come To Punjab'. Congress Leader Tries Damage Control After Anti-Migrant Speech By Fellow Partyman

Swarajya Staff

May 28, 2024, 11:17 AM | Updated 10:54 AM IST

Representational image of migrants in Punjab.
Representational image of migrants in Punjab.

A Congress leader from Punjab, Gurjeet Aujla, has given a statement that just as Punjabis go to Canada for development, migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar come to Punjab to prosper.

The statement by Aujla, who is Congress candidate from Amritsar, comes in the wake of a controversy triggered by fellow partyman and Sangrur candidate Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

In an election speech on 18 May in Sangrur’s Khetla village, Khaira said called for bringing a law in Punjab on the lines of Himachal Pradesh that would bar migrants from other states from buying land or getting government jobs or becoming voters without fulfilling certain state-defined conditions.

Khaira, a three-time MLA, said that migrants’ influx into Punjab, coupled with Punjabis’ exodus to foreign countries, would reduce Punjabis to a minority in the state. He has since repeated the statement at several political gatherings.

His remarks have drawn sharp reactions from rivals Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party. Punjab Chief Minister and AAP leader Bhagwant Mann said that “putting up restrictions for outsiders is not right”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi used Khaira’s remarks to launch a sharp attack on the Congress at a rally in Bihar. Speaking in Maharajganj, he said that the INDIA block was insulting the people of Bihar.

“A Congress leader close to the royal family [Gandhi family] says people from Bihar should be boycotted, shouldn’t be given rights in Punjab or allowed to buy a house there, but the royal family keeps mum over it. Their mind is full of such hatred,” he said.

Earlier, ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls, the then Congress leader and chief minister Charanjit Singh Chhani sparked a similar controversy by derogatorily calling the migrants as “bhaiyas” and saying that they should not be allowed to enter the state.

According to reports, a survey conducted by the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government in 2016 pegged the migrant population in Punjab 39 lakh (as per 2011 census, population of Punjab is 27,743,338). A member involved in the survey estimated that 30 per cent of the migrant population had become voters in Punjab.

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