In 20 seats dominated by Punjabis, party hasn’t fielded anyone from community

While Delhi has seen a rise in the number of Punjabi politicians in the Congress, not one candidate from the community has contested the Assembly elections in the 20 constituencies falling under the Chandni Chowk and North-West Delhi parliamentary seats.

Among the prominent Punjabis in the Congress are Jagdish Tytler, Subhash Chopra and Ajay Maken.

This time round, a group of Punjabi politicians are trying to remove the “imbalance” by seeking party tickets from those Assembly segments in which there is significant community vote.

“The Punjabi community believes that while on the one hand the Bharatiya Janata Party has constantly given adequate representation to the community, the Congress for some reason has not been giving that kind of representation in the Assembly elections,” a senior party leader said.

The adequate representation the BJP has given the community has led to Madan Lal Khurana, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Kedar Nath Sahni dominating the political firmament in Delhi for a long time, the leader said.

“We realise that the party gave tickets to Mr. Maken and even [Union Minister] Kapil Sibal in the Lok Sabha elections and they have both served as Ministers in the United Progressive Alliance government, but that is not enough. If they can win, so can others in the Assembly elections,” he added.

A case in point, the leader said, was Shakur Basti, which has 37 per cent Punjabi votes since the 2008 delimitation exercise. The Congress gave the Shakur Basti ticket to S.C. Vats, a Brahmin, who lost to Shyam Lal Garg of the BJP by just 4,000 votes.

“The constituency now has about 20 per cent Vaish voters, about 10 per cent Brahmins and about five per cent Sikhs. The BJP candidate won primarily on the basis of the votes that came his way from Saraswati Vihar area, which belong to his community. On the other hand, the Congress should now target Punjabi voters who have a significant presence in Multan Nagar, Rishi Nagar, Peeragarhi and Paschim Vihar areas.”

Stating that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had noted that dominance of castes in different areas will be looked into while giving tickets, the party leader said unfortunately this factor has been ignored by the party.

The community leaders have made a representation, which is being sent to senior leaders. It states that in the 2008 Assembly elections, the Congress had given the Chandni Chowk area tickets to two Muslims (Haroon Yusuf and Mehmood Zia), one Sikh (Prahlad Singh Sawhney), one Jat (Kanwar Karan Singh), one Brahmin (Anil Bharadwaj), and four Vaish candidates (Hari Shanker Gupta, Mangat Ram Singhal, Rajesh Jain and Ram Kailash Gupta), but no ticket was given to a Punjabi candidate.

Similarly in North-West Delhi, not a single ticket went to a member of the community. “In fact, not a single ticket has been given to a Punjabi candidate by the Congress in the 21 Assembly segments of Outer Delhi in the four Assembly elections since 1993,” the leader added.

The Congress leaders are also cautioning that dominance of the Vaish community in the constituency could cost Mr. Sibal in the Lok Sabha elections due next year.

They insist that a party survey had revealed that in at least the three constituencies of Rohini, Rithala and Shakur Basti there is such a strong presence of the Punjabi community, which can swing the elections either way.

With the Congress having almost made up its mind about giving tickets to most sitting MLA, the community leaders believe they still have a good chance of being heard and fielded from seats which the party had lost last time.

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