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HOSHIARPUR

A Congress bastion even during militancy, Hoshiarpur now appears akin to a crumbling citadel, under siege by SAD (Badal)-BJP combine.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2004 15:31 IST

A Congress bastion even during the dark years of militancy in Punjab, Hoshiarpur now appears akin to a crumbling citadel, under siege by the Akali Dal (Badal)-Bharatiya Janata Party combine.

Hoshiarpur is considered a Congress stronghold, having returned the party on all but three occasions since 1952. Among the important winners were Giani Zail Singh, besides Baldev Singh and Amar Nath Vidyalankar.

Other winners include the Janata Dal's Balbir Singh in 1977, who defeated Darbara Singh of the Congress, securing 61.9 per cent of the votes. In 1980, Giani Zail Singh (Congress) won 48.7 per cent votes against Balbir Singh of the Bharatiya Lok Dal, who secured only 21.5 per cent votes. Zail Singh later became the President.

In May 1985, Balbir Singh was shot down by the terrorists. The Congress then nominated Balbir Singh's son Kamal Chaudhary for the 1985 election. Chaudhary defeated Kabul Singh (Akali Dal), securing 237,753 votes against 161,050 by the latter. In 1989, Chaudhary got 176,176 votes against Satnam Singh Kainth of the BSP who polled 108,067 votes.

The 1992 election, held under the shadow of terrorism, saw Chaudhary defeat BSP leader Mayawati by 25,005 votes: 115,465 to 90,461, a narrow win.

However, in 1996, Chaudhary was defeated by BSP supremo Kanshi Ram by 10,946 votes. Kanshi Ram secured 230,011 votes, Chaudhary 219,067, and third placed Captain Vikram Singh of the BJP won 54,858 votes.

There are more than 2.5 lakh voters in this constituency: 53 per cent are Hindus and 46 per cent Sikhs. Of the total electorate, 30 per cent are scheduled castes; and while the Hindu scheduled castes are likely to vote for the Congress-BSP, the Sikh scheduled castes will probably align with the Akali Dal-BJP.

The constituency has nine assembly segments. In the 1997 Punjab assembly election, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance won seven seats, the BSP and Congress one each. Adding up the votes in the nine assembly segments, the Akali Dal-BJP got 314,673 votes, 27,280 more than the BSP-Congress's 287,393 votes (Congress 166,694, BSP 121,502).

Comparing the 1996 and 1997 tallies, the Congress lost a further 52,377 votes after Chaudhary disassociated himself with the party. Moreover, as a Akali Dal-BJP candidate, Chaudhary, accompanied by wife Sudha on the campaign trail, exudes confidence of winning.

Kamboj is discomfited by the fact that the seat has been allotted to the BSP even though it is a Congress borough.

Caste Equation

The Scheduled Caste voters are 28% and maong them AD Dharmis comprise 18% whle Chamars are 13%.