Punjab: In alliance with SAD, BSP set to make it life tough for political rivals in Doaba

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Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal offers sweets to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Secretary General Satish Chandra Mishra during a joint press conference at the SAD head office in Chandigarh, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (PTI Photo)

With the revival of SAD-BSP alliance after a gap of nearly 25 years, the ruling Congress, the main opposition parties AAP and BJP will have formidable competition in Doaba region.

In its alliance with the SAD, BSP will contest 8 seats out of its allotted 20 seats in Doaba (Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts), which has 23 Assembly seats.

Doaba is the historical pocket-borough of the BSP because of a dedicated vote bank. The region has almost 38 per cent Dalit population. BSP’s founder Kanshi Ram had shaped his party here in its early days. Election after election, parties in Doaba fight for the Dalit vote, which holds key to dominance in the region.

When the state goes to polls next year, BSP will contest three seats each from Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts and one each from Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts.

In Jalandhar, it will contest from Jalandhar (North), Jalandhar (West), and Kartarpur, in Hoshiarpur, the party has got Hoshiarpur, Tanda and Dasuya Assembly segments, while in Kapurthala and Nawanshahr, party had got Phagwara and Nawanshahr assembly segments, respectively.

With the alliance of the both, other parties may face tough competition on all these seats, mainly the ruling Congress.

Political experts say that Congress will have a tough fight on all 8 seats as BSP had performed well on Nawanshahr, Kartarpur, and Phagwara seats by fetching 32,480, 31,047 and 29,738 votes, respectively. It has huge potential to dent Congress vote bank on other 5 seats also where it got nearly 57,000 votes in 2019.

In 2019, BSP was at third position after Congress, the then SAD-BJP alliance, at most of the Assembly segments in Doaba, while the main opposition AAP was behind the three parties in the Doaba region.

Congress, according to political analysts, will have to re-work its strategy to garner greater share of Hindu, Valmiki and Mazhabi Sikh votes because BSP’s derives its major strength because of its hold among Ravidassia community, which is dominant among all Dalit communities of Doaba. They added that Hindu voters are not seeing much hope for BJP in the state at the moment when it has no alliance, secondly farming community is totally anti-BJP in the state.

The BJP has already elevated a known Ravidassia leader from Jalandhar,Vijay Sampla, as the chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Sampla is known to hold sway among its own community.

The BSP, meanwhile, has been losing its base continuously since late 1990s when it had even three MPs from Punjab.

In 2019, Lok Sabha elections brought a fresh lease of life and it increased its vote share to 3.5 per cent from 1.9 per cent and 1.5 per cent in 2014 Lok sabha and 2017 Assembly elections, respectively.

It had contested on three out of 13 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 under the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA).Under PDA, BSP had got three seats including Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Anandpur Sahib from where all the three candidates got total 4,79,439 votes, which was an increase of 82.14 per cent votes compared 2014, when party got total 2,63,227 votes on all 13 seats.

Last Lok Sabha polls saws BSP candidate Balwinder Kumar got 2,04,783 votes, Hoshiarpur candidate Khushi Ram got1,28, 215 votes and 1,46,441 votes were netted by Anandpur Sahib candidate Vikram Singh Sodhi. In 2014, the party got 1,56,535 votes on these three seats.

In Vddhan Sabha elections too BSP had recorded 4.7 per cent vote share in 2012 Assembly elections, which had come down to 1.5 per cent in 2017 Assembly elections, which is the party’s lowest ever.

According to the data sources from the Punjab election office, in 1992 election, BSP had 15 per cent vote share on Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat. In 1998 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, BSP’s vote share on the same seat reduced to 7.67 per cent and 4.13 per cent, respectively. In 2009, the party’s vote share further dropped to 5.75 per cent, but it was drastically low in 2014 Lok Sabha elections at just 1.9 per cent.

There was a time when BSP had 41.74 per cent vote share in erstwhile Phillaur Lok Sabha constituency, which is now part of Jalandhar Lok Saha constituency, in 1998.

Even in Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat BSP had 40.41 per cent share till mid 1990s and even BSP’s founder Kanshi Ram had won from Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat in 1996. Records say that party supremo Mayawati too had contested from Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat in 1992, but she had lost.

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