Doaba bracing up for a tough four-cornered electoral fight | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Doaba bracing up for a tough four-cornered electoral fight

May 29, 2024 11:35 PM IST

Considered a politically sensitive seat, the key to Jalandhar lies with its sizeable Dalit population (39%) and the influential “Dera Sachakhand Ballan”

With campaigning for Lok Sabha elections at its peak, the Doaba region is bracing for a tough electoral battle in the Dalit-dominant Jalandhar (reserved) parliamentary constituency.

Jalandhar, May 10 (ANI): Congress candidate from Jalandhar Charanjit Singh Channi during a rally ahead of filing of his nomination for Lok Sabha polls in Jalandhar on Friday. (ANI Photo)(Sumit Sehgal) PREMIUM
Jalandhar, May 10 (ANI): Congress candidate from Jalandhar Charanjit Singh Channi during a rally ahead of filing of his nomination for Lok Sabha polls in Jalandhar on Friday. (ANI Photo)(Sumit Sehgal)

The Congress has fielded former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), after being ditched by its sitting MP, has gone with former Akali MLA, Pawan Kumar Tinu.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) poached the sitting AAP MP Sushil Kumar Rinku – who is the party’s candidate in the polls – while the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has placed its bets on former Congress MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has nominated Balwinder Kumar as its candidate.

Party-hopping candidates have spiced up the electoral battle further as three candidates including Rinku switched to BJP from AAP, Kapyee joined Akali dal after snapping ties with the Congress party and Tinu was inducted into AAP after leaving Akali Dal.

For a long time, Jalandhar was known to be a Congress bastion with the party winning 10 out of the 16 Lok Sabha elections. But AAP’s impressive win during the 2023 Jalandhar by-poll altered the political discourse. The Congress has MLAs in five segments of Jalandhar – Adampur, Phillaur, Jalandhar North, Jalandhar Cantt and Shahkot, while the AAP has in three – Nakodar, Kartarpur, and Jalandhar Central; AAP four, but Sheetal Angural, AAP MLA from Jalandhar West joined the BJP along with Rinku.

Considered a politically sensitive seat, the key to Jalandhar lies with its sizeable Dalit population (39%) and the influential “Dera Sachakhand Ballan”. (Dera broadly means a congregation.) The Dera, which doesn’t have any apparent political leaning, tends to impact voting trends in the seat.

Political parties have brought up Dalit issues in their campaign narratives including the bungling of funds of the post-matric scholarship scheme during the Congress regime and the failure of the AAP government in fulfilling its promise to appoint a Dalit deputy chief minister to woo voters here.

Channi enjoys Dalit face value and the influence of the Chaudhary family

Punjab’s first Dalit chief minister, Channi, has run his own campaign as his candidature ruffled the feathers of the influential Chaudhary family, which has been associated with the Congress for over 100 years and exerts significant influence over Dalit voters in certain areas.

Star campaigners from his party including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi did not canvass for him in the runup to polls.

After the two-time Congress MP from Jalandhar Santokh Singh Chaudhary died of a cardiac arrest during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in January 2023, the party fielded his wife, Karamjit Kaur, in the by-poll but she lost to AAP’s Rinku by over 58,000 votes. This time, however, the party put its faith in Channi, who was promptly dubbed an outsider by his detractors as he had to shift base from Chamkaur Sahib.

Santokh Chaudhary’s son, Vikramjit Singh, who is the MLA of Phillaur, openly rebelled against Channi and even made derogatory statements, inviting suspension orders from the party. His mother, meanwhile, joined the BJP. Channi is now banking on his own image as a prominent Dalit leader and proximity with the “deras” to turn the tide in his favour.

Even during the Jalandhar by-election, Channi camped in the city and spent time in different socio-religious congregations.

Prestige battle for AAP

After bringing in Rinku from the Congress to fight the 2023 by-poll, the AAP was forced to bring in another turncoat, Pawan Kumar Tinu, from the SAD, for the polls. The party had initially announced Rinku as its candidate on March 14, but he jumped ship to the BJP on March 28, leaving AAP embarrassed.

The party tried to persuade Kartarpur MLA Balkar Singh to contest but he was reluctant, fearing anti-incumbency against the state government. For the AAP, the battle for Jalandhar is a battle for its own prestige. During a recent visit, chief minister Bhagwant Mann had told party workers and leaders to win this seat at any cost. Both Mann and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal toured the constituency twice to boost the party’s campaign.

Challenges galore before others

Looking for better political prospects, sitting MP Rinku joined the BJP from AAP but found that he had little to show in terms of work. The saffron party itself is in choppy waters here as its candidate during the 2023 by-poll, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, ended up losing his deposit.

However, the party did manage a lead in the Jalandhar central and north segments during the by-poll. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Jalandhar on May 24 has seemingly boosted his campaign in urban areas. In rural areas, however, it is facing stiff resistance from farmers’ outfits, which are furious over the Centre’s action during their agitation.

Meanwhile, for SAD, it is battle of its existence as it is banking upon former congress MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee.

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