The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab, particularly the vote share it got in Doaba despite having little-known faces as its Lok Sabha candidates, looks set to change the Dalit politics of the region and the state. This essentially means alarm bells for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has failed to get even a single seat across the country this time.
Though the AAP, which got all of its four seats in Punjab, did not win any in Doaba region, it upset the calculations of both the ruling SAD-BJP and the opposition Congress in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur. Eventually, the Congress won Jalandhar and BJP won Hoshiarpur.
In Phillaur segment within the Jalandhar LS seat, despite that AAP's candidate Jyoti Mann being not at all popular, in the Phillaur assembly segment, which was seen as a BSP stronghold and has the maximum proportion of Schedule Castes in Doaba, in 2012 assembly polls the BSP candidate had got only around 1,200 votes less than the victorious SAD candidate. This time, the BSP got only 13,408 votes here. The AAP received 33,213 votes more than the votes received by the SAD candidate, and remained at number two.
Similarly, in Nakodar, Jalandhar Cantonment and Shahkot seats having one of the biggest chunks of Balmiki community across the district, the AAP received 36,700, 34,368 votes and 29, 896 votes, respectively; more than the Congress votes. Here, the Balmiki community before the present elections was considered to be either the BSP's or the Congress' vote bank.
Overall, in the 2009 LS polls in Jalandhar, the BSP candidate had received 93,592 votes that have now come down to 46,914, the BSP's worst figure here in the last four Lok Sabha elections. Unexpectedly, here AAP received over 2.5 lakh votes.
In Hoshiarpur LS seat, in the SC-reserved assembly segments of Hargobindpur, Phagwara, Sham Chaurasi and Chabbewal where in the 2012 Vidhan Sabha polls the BSP had received more than 20,000 votes on all, this time the BSP managed to cross the 10,000-mark only in Phagwara.
The AAP's Yamini Gomar received more than 2.13 lakh votes in Hoshiarpur overall. Here, the BSP had got 1.03 lakh votes in 2009, but only 40,497 now.
Even in Anandpur Sahib LS segment, a part of which falls in Doaba, the BSP's vote share decreased from 1.18 lakh in 2009 to 69,124.
Across Doaba, the BSP's considerable presence in the region was visible in 2012 assembly elections when in the 23 assembly seats falling under Doaba region, at eight seats the party received more than 20,000 votes and in the rest it got more than 10,000 votes. But this time, it was only on five seats that it crossed 10,000; nowhere did it cross 20,000.
"The Dalit community of the region saw a new ray of hope in the AAP after the BSP failed to become the voice," said a young BSP leader, on the condition of anonymity. "From a revolution, the BSP has become a mere political organisation that gets active only during elections."
State BSP president Parkash Singh Jandali said the party was "shocked" to get such a low response: "BSP supremo Mayawati has discussed all such issues with us and we are sure to bounce back," he said, speaking to HT from Lucknow.