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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Akali Dal plays caste card in Fatehgarh Sahib constituency

Vishal Rambani and Gurpreet Singh Chhina , Hindustan Times   Fatehgarh Sahib, March 29, 2014
First Published: 08:11 IST(29/3/2014) | Last Updated: 08:12 IST(29/3/2014)

While the Congress has denied ticket to sitting MP Sukhdev Singh Libra, a Ramdasia Sikh, and has fielded a four-time MLA Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, a Bazigar community leader, the Shiromani Akali Dal — that was stressing on the development plank earlier — has suddenly changed tack and played caste card to garner nearly 22% votes of the Ramdasia community in this reserved constituency.

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As Akali candidate Kulwant Singh is a Ramdasia Sikh, the poll managers of SAD have decided to play the caste card for polarisation of the Ramdasia community votes.

In the caste arithmetic, the Ramdasia community is a dominating force here, whereas the Bazigar community has presence only in two segments of Amloh and Bassi Pathana of the total nine assembly seats of Fatehgarh Lok Sabha constituency.

Though the exact figures are not available, there are 3 lakh Ramdasia Sikh voters in the constituency, while 50,000 voters are from the Bazigar community.

Ironically, the Cong ress has chosen Dharamsot over Sukhdev Singh Libra, Amar Singh and former PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo, all Ramdasia Sikhs. And the Akali Dal wants to exploit this fact. Both Dullo and Libra remained absent from the campaign launch of Dharamsot.

In their speeches on Friday, SAD candidate Kulwant Singh and other speakers though focused on development, they also highlighted ticket denial to Libra — a Ramdasia Sikh. The speakers stressed that now the Ramdasia community should get united and vote for the SAD, which has fielded a candidate from the community.

As per Dalip Singh Pandhi, a member of the Scheduled Caste Commission, “Last time, the Congress candidate had won for two reasons — first, all Panthic voters chose Sukhdev Singh Libra, a Gurcharan Singh Tohra loyalist, and second, the Ramdasia community voted in large numbers for Libra. Now, both these factors are neutralised and it’s advantage Akali Dal for fielding Kulwant Singh, a Ramdasia leader.”

However, the Congress differs with the Akali theory. “Baffled after we fielded four-time MLA Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, the Akali Dal has lost the track and instead of development they have started talking about the caste issue.

Dharamsot enjoys support from the Ramdasia community and had won four times from Amloh, which is part of Fatehgarh Sahib constituency,” said AICC secretary and MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra.

“The Congress has always worked for the weaker sections of society and will get huge support from all sections,” said Nagra, adding that Dullo and Libra will join the campaign in coming days.

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