Dalit voters are again under focus in Punjab as political parties start wooing them keeping in view their 32 per cent vote share.
Dalit voters are again under focus in Punjab as political parties start wooing them keeping in view their 32 per cent vote share. Despite the fact that voting pattern of last few elections in Punjab show that dalits do not vote as committed vote bank of a particular political party but rather vote strategically, there is an effort by all political parties in Punjab to win over dalit voters.
The shift in voting pattern of dalits in Punjab is related to an effort by the dalits to assert their identity. The dalit youth, in particular, have been spreading the message of dalit pride, a number of songs around that theme are a rage among youngsters, who no longer shy away from their identity.
As dalits seem to be disillusioned with current scheme of things and expect share in the power, which they so far have not been able get due to lack any strong dalit leadership in Punjab.
Dalits are considered to be the BSP’s core constituency, however, the party has not performed very well in the state. Its vote share and representation in the Assembly has gradually declined over the years. Its best performance was in 1992 when it secured 16.32 per cent of the vote share and bagged nine seats out of the state’s 117. Its vote share dipped to 7.48 per cent in 1997 when it won just one seat. That was the last time it had a presence in the Punjab Assembly, with its vote share further dropping from 5.75 per cent in 2009 to 4.29 per cent in 2012.
The Congress had initially benefited from this scenario, but dalits seem-ed to have turned against it in the 2012 Assembly elections.
According to Mukesh Malodh who is working on land rights for dalits through his Zamin Parapti Sangrash Samiti: “Dalits own only two percent of land of the state despite constituting one-third of the state’s population. We want that dalits should get one-third share in panchayat land, besides getting residential plots. So far all political parties have failed dalits. There is no party which has addressed the core issues of dalits.” Punjab has total 117 assembly seats, out of which 33 seats are reserved for the candidates from the Schedule Caste category. During the 2012 assembly elections BSP contested all 117 seats but managed to win no seat. The Congress as well as Akali-BJP combine also contested all 117 seats in 2012. Dalits candidates contest from reserved seats, there is no example in Punjab in the past when a Dalit candidate has won from an open seat.