Jalandhar: With over 40 per cent dalit votes comprising of Ravidassia and Valmiki community in doaba region, the nine constituencies of Jalandhar district have been the game changer for political parties in any election.
Doaba comprises of four districts i.e. Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. Jalandhar itself has nine constituencies such as Adampur, Jalandhar Cantt, Jalandhar Central, Jalandhar (West), Kartarpur, Nakodar, Phillaur and Shahkot.While doaba has got over 40 percent dalit votes, the four reserve assembly constituencies of Jalandhar namely Jalandhar (West), Kartarpur, Adampur and Phillaur has got the highest concentration of Ravidassia and Valmiki votes.
According to information, even on other five constituencies including Jalandhar Cantonment, Jalandhar (Central), Jalandhar (North), Shahkot and Nakodar, the dalit vote percentage is one third of the total population. Among the reserve constituencies, Jalandhar (West) is one such segment, where Bhagat community of dalits is equivalent to the other key castes of Ravidassia community followed by Valmikis.
Political observers shared that Shahkot assembly segment despite being a general seat has also got considerable Rai Sikh, Ravidassia and Valmiki community votes. Similarly, Nakodar also comprises of Ravidassias and Valmikis apart from Jatt Sikh, Hindu and other backward class votes. Considering the dalit vote bank, all major political parties starting from SAD-BJP, Congress, Aam Admi Party (AAP), BSP and others were leaving no stone unturned in wooing the electorate and fielding the right candidate.
Among the political parties, SAD has taken the lead in announcing its first list of 69 candidates on November 16 while BJP Punjab unit led by Union Minister of State Vijay Sampla is yet to take the final call. As per the seat sharing formula, SAD will be contesting on 94 seats and BJP will contest on 23 seats in the 117 assembly seats of Punjab.
The Arvind Kejriwal led AAP also announced its candidates in Jalandhar barring crucial seat of Jalandhar Cantt. AAP has released its first list of candidates in the month of August, hence giving enough time to its candidates to campaign in their respective constituencies.
On the other hand Congress leadership despite vowing to announce its candidates is yet to take the final call.
Sources in Congress maintained that the party is likely to release first list of candidates in first week of December. “The State Election Committee meeting was conducted recently and screening committing meeting is scheduled to be held in Delhi soon. The final decision on the list will be announced by December 3 with the final stamp of Congress president Sonia Gandhi”, sources said. However, when asked that the delay in announcing the names would leave the candidates with less time to campaign, a party leader said , “There was two-months time for the elections and candidates will get proper time for campaigning.”
Meanwhile, SAD-BJP is banking on development plank but facing anti-incumbency factor in the state too. The party is riding high on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi bond.Another key dalit party BSP is also still zeroing in its candidates. Till date, the lone candidate announced by BSP is an ex- Rajya Sabha MP Avtar Singh Karimpuri, who has been fielded from Phillaur assembly seat.
Phillaur has remained a strong hold of BSP till early 90s. “The next list of candidates will be announced by November end” , said party spokesperson Balwinder Kumar.Meanwhile, SAD which created a record of sorts by retaining power for second consecutive term in the 2012 assembly elections preferred to trust its loyal lieutenants for 2017 polls including old war horses- sitting MLAs Pawan Kumar Tinu from Adampur (reserve), Gurpartap Singh Wadala from Nakodar, Transport Minister and SAD (Rural) President Ajit Singh Kohar from Shahkot constituency.
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