Punjab 2017

In Punjab, ‘elephant’ makes only ponderous progress

Political pantheon: Cut-outs of Narendra Modi, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Arvind Kejriwal, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for sale in Jalandhar. No BSP leader makes the cut.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Contesting alone in all 117 Assembly seats in the upcoming Punjab elections, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has seen a gradual decrease in its vote share over the years, can still play a spoilsport for the other political parties in the fray.

In Punjab, where Dalits account for 31.94 per cent of the population, the highest percentage among the States, the BSP sees the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party as an opportunity to make inroads into the State.

“With the AAP jumping into the election fray..we [BSP] are in an advantageous position this time. AAP’s presence is going to dent the vote bank of the ruling Akali-BJP combine and the Congress..ultimately we [BSP] will gain from it,” Mr. Raju told The Hindu. The BSP’s sole aim was to end the SAD-BJP rule of 10 years, which had been marred by corruption and anti-farmer and anti-Dalit policies, he said.

Falling share

Admitting that the BSP’s vote share in Punjab had dipped over the years, Mr. Raju said the party has identified its reasons and had been working since the last two years to consolidate its position.

“We prepared over one lakh youth workers in the past two years across all Assembly segments. They have been meeting people and explaining the party’s agenda and the misdeeds of the ruling government,” he said.

BSP chief Mayawati will address two rallies at Phagwara and Mehil Kalan in Barnala on January 30, Mr. Raju said. The BSP used the Dalit plank for the first time in Punjab in 1992, when it secured 16% of the votes. However, the votes dropped to four per cent in the 2012 Assembly polls.

Political experts say the BSP’s main ideological plank could not find space in the socio-cultural terrain of Punjab.

“The uncertain religious allegiance of Dalits has made it easy for the Opposition parties in the State to attract their support,” Pramod Kumar, director of the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh, told The Hindu.

“The BSP may not spring a surprise in the Assembly polls but it could play a spoilsport for the other parties, be it Congress, Akali or the AAP,” he added.

The Congress and the Akali Dal have given representation to Dalits while distributing ticket. From 1967 to 2012, of the 314 Scheduled Caste MLAs, 36% and 44% were from the Congress and the Akali Dal respectively.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 12:18:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/punjab-2017/In-Punjab-%E2%80%98elephant%E2%80%99-makes-only-ponderous-progress/article17083333.ece

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