Friday, January 27, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Assembly elections: Dalit assertion in Punjab's Doaba does not mean votes for Mayawati

26 Jan, 2012, 03.33PM IST, Sachin Parashar,TNN
Assembly elections: Dalit assertion in Punjab's Doaba does not mean
votes for Mayawati

BALLAN (Jalandhar): A speech by BSP leader Mayawati interspersed with
music, especially a Ravidasa song, blares from a loudspeaker fitted on
an auto bouncing down NH1 between Phagwara and Jalandhar. India's most
powerful dalit leader must win over Doaba, Punjab's dalit heartland if
she wants any real presence in the state.

Will the UP CM succeed? The answer perhaps lies 20km down the road
that leads to Pathankot from Jalandhar. Dera Sachkhand at Ballan
village is the most sacred place for the region's dalits, mainly
Ravidasis. Its growing clout ensured that Congress's Amarinder Singh
visited their chief guru Sant Niranjan Dass for a 'darshan' , and CM
Parkash Singh Badal is also expected. But while the sant blesses all,
he refuses to talk politics.

Dass, who escaped a bid on his life in Vienna in 2009, has manager
Amrik Birdi speak on his behalf. "BSP has sought our support but the
sant believes only people who behave as mahapurush should be voted,''
says Birdi. The Dera has led dalits in strengthening their identity.

Another follower is more forthright. "Punjab's dalits are not Jatav
like Mayawati and will not like to waste their vote on BSP; they will
choose between Congress and Akalis," he says, pointing out that the
'valmikis' have decided to vote for Akalis on the Khanna seat. The
Sehajdhari Sikhs, many of who are dalit, have decided to back

Despite their 'dalit' assertion, the community will as always choose
between the two main parties. Importantly , both Congress and SAD
(Badal) have given sufficient representation to dalits.

Mayawati drew a blank in 2007 with BSP getting 4% vote share. BSP's
best performance was in 1996 when Maya entered into an alliance with
Akalis and won three out of four seats. Mayawati apparently has so far
failed as Punjab dalits comprise Ravidasis, Valmikis and Majhabi Sikhs
who do not relate with the UP CM's Jatav identity.

"Punjab has been more liberal in religious practices which has made it
difficult for Mayawati to create a vote-bank solely on her Manuwadi
plank,'' says Pramod Kumar of the Institute for Development and

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