Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Congress, Akalis eye Dalit vote


Congress, Akalis eye Dalit vote

The Election Commission tableau for the Republic Day parade, during a
press preview in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

he Dalit community is expected to play a vital role in the Punjab
Assembly elections, so the two main rival parties, the Shiromani Akali
Dal and the Congress are promising to shower them with sops.

While the leadership of both the Akali Dal and Congress has been drawn
predominantly from the Jatt community, the Dalit vote has always been
divided between the two, with the Congress believed to have a greater
hold on them. It is this hold that the Akalis are aiming to break.

The Dalits have also voted for the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left in
the past, but with the BSP failing to establish its base in the state
and the Left parties losing their pockets of influence, the
community's vote is up for grabs.

The SAD has been paying extra attention to the Dalit settlements in
the villages, called Vehras. The SAD-BJP government has announced two
schemes to woo Dalits — a cash gift of Rs 15,000 to poor girls getting
married and the construction of toilets in poor households. In many
villages of Lambi, the constituency from where Chief Minister Parkash
Singh Badal is contesting, the newly constructed toilet doors with
SAD's election campaign slogan, Raaj nahi Sewa (Service, not Rule) are
a testimony to the importance being given to the Dalit votes.
Maheshinder Singh Badal, the Chief Minister's cousin who is contesting
on a Congress ticket against the CM had lodged a complaint before the
elections were announced. According to Gurmeet Singh Khudiyan, a close
confidant of the Congress candidate, this is evidently a last ditch
effort by the Badals to woo the Dalits as they know they are on their
way out.

Dr Santokh Singh, a well known political analyst says there has been a
significant shift in the Punjab political scene with Amarinder Singh
wooing away a significant section of the peasantry, the Jatt vote. The
stranglehold of the Akali Dal on the Jatt Sikh voters was broken in
the last Assembly elections with Amarinder Singh sweeping the Malwa
region. The emergence of Manpreet Badal, who is also from the same
region, has further divided the Jatt vote. According to Santokh Singh,
the Akali game plan is to offset the loss of Jatt votes by wooing the
Dalits. Whether they succeed in that or not would have a direct
bearing on the complexion of the next Assembly.


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