Political parties not only in Punjab but also in Uttar Pradesh have started preparing in advance for the 2017 assembly elections.
Balladeer-turned-politician Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who on October 31 switched to the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, is assigned to “placate” the Sikh vote bank for his new side. Given the not-so-important portfolio of jail reforms minister in UP, Ramoowalia has been given unofficial charge of looking after Sikh requirements in the state.
“For the first time, the UP government has announced holiday on December 16, martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur,” said Ramoowalia, describing his impact in the state. The occasion’s date was also changed at his behest. A miniscule 1% of the UP population (18 lakh of 20 crore), Sikhs still have impact in more than 10% of the assembly constituencies (45 of 403). “In 35 seats, they are a sure-shot deciding factor,” said Ramoowalia, hinting that the SP also saw the prosperous community as a good source of election fund.
“Sikhs dislike the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, as well as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). They only support the SP, and my job is to make the bond stronger,” Ramoowalia told HT over telephone.
He said he had toured Sikhs-dominated constituencies of Kanpur, Shahjanpur, Luckhnow, Ghaziabad, Lakhimpur Kheri, Gauwal, Sitapur, and a few along the Nepal border. Known as an opportunist and perpetual party hopper, Ramoowalia, 73, was member of the SAD’s core committee in Punjab. In the 2012 assembly elections, he lost from SAS Nagar and now doesn’t see much scope for him in Punjab politics.
He was angling for a Rajya Sabha seat but failed to guide the party to victory in the first municipal corporation elections in SAS Nagar. “The invitation from Mulayam Singh Yadav came like a lottery, and I took no time to grab it,” he said, adding that he was well-taken care of in UP. Then his voice got drowned in the noise of the siren of the convoy taking him to the Luckhnow airport.
For Ramoowalia, the issues of the UP Sikhs are related mostly to revenue and development, since they have no representation. “I want to make the Samajwadi Party impact on Sikhs and vice-versa,” said the leader.