Jalandhar: The D-day has arrived. Doaba, the Bist-Doab region between Sutlej and Ravi river known for its affluent NRI belt has always played a decisive role in not only shaping the voting trend of Dalits but also scripting the fortunes of the political party likely to gain power in Punjab.
With over 40 per cent Dalit population, Ravidassia and Valmiki community to play a major role in scripting the fortunes of the next government
With over 40 per cent Dalit population comprising of Ravidassia and Valmiki community, it was the tilt of Dalit votes in the elections, which had played a major role in deciding the success of any political party, be it SAD-BJP alliance, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the BSP.
Dalit voters from Doaba in the past 2007 and 2012 assembly elections voted in favour of SAD-BJP alliance, hence bringing the Akalis to power for two consecutive terms.
Traditionally, Doaba region particularly Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur remained a Congress bastion till Akalis got the massive support of Dalits. In the last assembly elections, heavyweight Congress leaders from Doaba namely Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Santokh Chaudhary, Amarjit Singh Samra, Avtar Henry, Satnam Kainth and others were defeated, all thanks to Dalit votes in unison to Akalis.
This time, the assembly elections was a direct three-cornered contest between Akalis, Congress and AAP and Dalit voters were keeping cards close to chest.
Though the final outcome would be out on March 11 but a majority of the Dalit voters across Doaba region shared mixed views on issues of immediate concern. Apart from the local issues, people also shared problems faced by them due to demonetisation done by Modi government.
From Jalandhar, Hoshiapur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr, Dalit voters predominantly spoke about problems ranging from drugs, unemployment, basic amenities and using Dalits as a mere ‘vote bank’.
Daily Post met Dalit voters from the four districts who shared that employment was a major cause of concern for them. “Youth from our village have either gone abroad or they were idle. Agriculture was no more a viable earning option while lack of employment has left many of them distressed. Punjab badly requires a government, which could bring industry and jobs”, said a group of elderly men in Chotti Lehri village in Chabbewal constituency.
At Dhadde Fateh Singh village in Sham Chaurasi constituency, villagers shared how demonetisation left them helpless. “It was an overnight decision taken in haste. Though the rich might have managed but poor were left in the lurch. Our labourers working in the fields used to stand in the long queues outside banks or lose a day’s wage. Even we could not lend money to them,” the villagers added.
In Adampur segment, a group of women also shared that Dalits required jobs, as people were fed up with sops from the governments. “A flawed education system coupled with bleak job opportunities was a major problem in the region. A few good students from our village were either working in metro cities or they went abroad. In most of the rural households, women were working while men were sitting idle or fallen prey to drugs,” they said.
Nangal Shaheedan village of Hoshiarpur district was also no exception, where though people spoke about the three-cornered contest between Akalis, Congress and AAP but preferred to keep mum. “Dalits should not be used as vote bank by the political parties. Many a time, news of doing away with reservation system crop up, giving us anxious moments. Till date, Dalits particularly Valmikis were still lagging behind in the social system,” they said.
The voters in this region also shared that it was high time that Punjab could get a Dalit Chief Minister. “AAP National Convener Arvind Kejriwal announced to make a Dalit as the Deputy CM. Why can’t Dalit become a CM? Political parties should make their stand clear on such a crucial issue,” said a teacher from Phagwara constituency of Kapurthala district.
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