Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Jat Sikhs in Punjab have sought representation in the Union Cabinet.

In a letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, senior Congress leader from Punjab M.M. Singh Cheema has drawn her attention to the strong undercurrent among the rural masses, especially the Jat Sikhs who felt being left out of the Cabinet in the United Progressive Alliance regime.

This was the first time that Punjab had no Jat Sikh nominee in the Cabinet. Since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, there had been a nominee of the Jat Sikhs in the government, as they were the most celebrated soldiers of the freedom struggle. Indira Gandhi always included a Jat Sikh in her Cabinet like Sardar Swaran Singh, Sardar Baldev Singh, Gurdial Singh Dhillon or Darbara Singh, the letter said.

The Congress had failed to consolidate the benefits of the Rs.70,000-crore debt relief for farmers, the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the increase in the minimum support price for wheat and paddy because the ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine in Punjab had created an impression that it had secured the benefits for the farmers, Mr. Cheema said. As a result, the Congress suffered a severe drubbing in the rural areas, especially in places dominated by the Jat Sikhs.

Over the years, the Jat Sikhs had been pivotal in rural politics and they did not yield to pressure and arm-twisting by the government, and they tended to vote heavily against the regime that pressured them.

“This is the section that needs to be tackled very carefully, as once they take a stand, they vote en bloc in their areas of influence. This happened in 1992, 1997, 2002 in 2007, and in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections,” Mr. Cheema said.