Election day change shows significance of Dalit votes in state

Chandīgarh:

The ECI’s decision to postpone the polling date in Punjab by six days to facilitate the celebration of Guru Ravidas Jayanti by its followers on February 16 shows how crucial Dalit votes are for various political parties in the state.

Punjab was originally due to go to the polls on February 14, but the polling panel, on the representation of various political parties, postponed the day of the vote to February 20 to ensure that Guru Ravidas loyalists do not miss to vote due to their large scale trip from Punjab to Varanasi and back to celebrate the seer’s birthday.

With the predicted caste population of Punjab constituting 31.94% of the state’s population, the highest of any state in the country, all political parties are trying to woo them for the February 20 elections for the Punjab Assembly .

While India’s Election Commission originally set a single-phase polling day in Punjab on February 14, two days before the seer’s birthday, all political parties were quick to point out to the polling committee that Dalit voters, being in transit between Punjab and Varanasi, may miss the vote.

Initially, BSP and then Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi followed by BJP, Punjab Lok Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) and AAP urged ECI to postpone polling day beyond the seer’s birthday on February 16.

The importance of the Dalit votes could also be gauged by the fact that the Congress party last year appointed Charanjit Singh Channi as state premier, the first person from the SC community to hold the position.

The Shiromani Akali Dal, which cut ties with the BJP over the farm bills in 2020, tied with the Bahujan Samaj party last year in the state assembly polls.

The SAD-BSP alliance also promised the people of the state that if elected to power, they would make a Deputy Head of SC MLA Punjab.

The Aam Aadmi party has also promised free education to children in the SC community, in addition to covering the cost of their tuition fees for vocational courses or competitions.

Punjab has a large SC community population in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr districts in the Doaba region of the state.

Out of a total of 117 seats in Punjab, 34 electoral districts are reserved for Scheduled Castes.

Professor Ronki Ram from the Department of Political Science, University of Punjab said that there are a total of 39 SC castes in Punjab.

The most important of these are “Chamar”, “Ad-dharmi”, “Balmiki”, “Mazhabi” and “Rai Sikh”, these five SC sub-castes alone constituting about 80% of the SC population of the state, he said.

‘Ad-dharmi’ and ‘Chamar’ are further divided into Ravidasias and Ramdasias, he added.

It is estimated that there are around 12 lakh Ravidasias living in the Doaba region.

The Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Jalandhar is the largest dera of Ravidasias in the state. A large number of followers of Guru Ravidas visit Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on his birthday.

Typically, SC votes are split among various political parties due to different ideologies and affiliations, experts say, adding that each party tries to woo the SC community with its pledges.

Professor Ashutosh Kumar from Panjab University said: “Dalits here are divided according to castes, regions and religions. Phagwara seat Congress candidate Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal said the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi as CM has made a huge difference to the SC community in particular and to the common man in general.

He claimed that there was a clear tilt towards the Congress party due to the Channi factor.

Highlighting the importance of the Dalit community in the upcoming elections, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and deputy chairman of the party, Jarnail Singh Wahid, said the Scheduled Caste community had influence over 64 seats in the Dalit assembly. ‘State.

He added that Akali Dal and Bahujan Samaj party workers are working enthusiastically to ensure the victory of the SAD-BSP alliance in next month’s elections.

Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi announced last year the establishment of a Guru Ravidas Chair on 101 acres of land to perpetuate the philosophy and teachings of the great saint.

He also announced the creation of the state-of-the-art Dr BR Ambedkar Museum to perpetuate the glorious legacy of Baba Saheb.

Besides Channi, Punjab Congress Leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, SAD Leader Sukhbir Singh Badal among other leaders visited the Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Jalandhar.

Last year, SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal promised to bring a world-class university to the Doaba region named after Dr BR Ambedkar, as well as separate community welfare departments SC and BC.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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