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Where people vote for charisma and not caste

Anju Agnihotri Chaba

Posted: Feb 02, 2007 at 1704 hrs IST

In the land of five rivers, people don’t vote on the basis of caste and creed. They follow their hearts. A stray look at the poll results over the decades shows how candidates have won seats mainly on the basis of their personal charisma and not caste.

This is a far cry from other states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, etc, where voting along caste lines is de rigueur. Even the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), known for its Dalit brand of politics, has acknowledged the difference in Punjab by fielding over 50 upper-caste candidates in these polls.

The past elections corroborate this truth. Avtar Henry, the sitting MLA from Jalandhar North constituency, has been bagging this seat since 1992 even though his constituency is dominated by the Hindu community voters and Jats are in a minority. In every poll, Henry has beaten a Hindu candidate, who should have had the upper hand given the number of Brahmins, Banias, Khatris, in the constituency.

Similarly, in the Tanda constituency of Hoshiarpur district, Balbir Singh Mianai, who belongs to Lubana community, has been winning the elections here even though his community has only 9,112 voters in the constituency dominated by Jat Sikh and Sainis.

Kewal Krishen, the seven-time winner from Mukerian, has only 1,000 members of his backward Chhang community in the constituency. It’s the upper-caste Rajputs, Brahmins and Jats who have been returning him to the Assembly again and again.

Rattan Singh Ajnala, the sitting MP from Tarn Taran and former MLA from Ajnala (Amritsar), has been defeating a Jat Sikh candidate from Jat Sikh dominated constituencies in both the Assembly and Parliamentary polls even though he is a Lubana, a community, which has a very weak presence in the belt.

In Nawan Shahr too, the Sainis continue to rule the ballot even though the constituency has a large chunk of Dalit voters.

It is ditto at Garhshakar, which often returns a Brahmin or Jat candidate even though it is largely populated by Gujjars and Rajputs.

anju.agnihotri.chaba@expressindia.com

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