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Why Dalits, with 32 pc population, fail in Punjab power politics?

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Chandigarh, May 26 (IANS) Does the Dalit (scheduled caste) vote bank in Punjab, being the home turf of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram and having a Dalit population of 32 per cent — the highest among states — play a politically empowered role in the electoral outcomes in the agricultural economy state?

Political pundits say “no” as, despite their numerical strength, they have failed to translate into political influence owing to the “leadership crisis”. Another reason is that they are not a homogeneous community that votes in unison.

But for other parties, as per the past trends, they normally play spoilsport.

The four mainstream parties — the Congress, the BJP, the Jat-dominated Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which snapped its electoral ties with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the run-up to these polls, and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — are trying to woo the Dalits — a majority of them farm labourers or daily wage earners — by fielding candidates from their community for state’s 13 parliamentary seats.

Also, the caste-based BSP is contesting on all seats.

As per past records, BSP’s vote percentage over the years has weakened substantially, both in assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

From 1998 onwards, the BSP has not won even a single Lok Sabha seat in Punjab.

The BSP’s best performance in the Assembly polls was in 1992. At that time, the party had won nine seats in Punjab, but in the next elections in 1997, it was reduced to one seat.

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In the 2002 Assembly polls, the party had got 5.69 per cent votes which decreased to 1.77 per cent in the 2022 polls, mainly due to the emergence of AAP.

Interestingly, a majority of Dalit legislators were elected from parties other than the BSP.

“After 1996, Dalits started shifting towards different parties, but before that the majority of their votes went to the Congress,” a Congress veteran leader told IANS.

In the 2019 parliamentary polls, the BSP, which contested on three reserved seats, had a vote share of 3.5 per cent. It had got 1.4 lakh votes in Anandpur Sahib, 1.28 lakh votes in Hoshiarpur and more than 2 lakh votes in Jalandhar, the hub of the Dalits.

With its declining popularity, the BSP may play spoilsport for the other parties mainly on these seats in these polls, the Congress veteran added.

The BSP has fielded its state President Jabir Singh Garhi from Anandpur Sahib, the seat currently represented by Congress’ Manish Tewari, who has been fielded from the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat.

BSP candidate Rakesh Soman from Hoshiarpur joined AAP in the run-up to the polls. Congress defector legislator Raj Kumar Chabbewal is the AAP candidate from this seat where the BSP holds considerable influence. Party supremo Kanshi Ram had won this seat in 1996 with the support of the Akali Dal.

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Balwinder Kumar has been fielded by the BSP from Jalandhar, a Congress bastion with the party winning 10 out of the 16 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress has fielded Charanjit Singh Channi, the state’s first Dalit chief minister, while AAP has nominated Akali Dal turncoat legislator Pawan Kumar Tinu. The BJP has poached the sitting AAP MP Sushil Kumar Rinku and the Akali Dal has reposed faith in former Congress MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee.

BJP’s Rinku is the most conspicuous party-hopper, having switched sides twice in a year.

In Dalit politics, the state witnessed a new dynamic with the BJP’s announcement in 2022 that it would appoint a Scheduled Caste chief minister if it came to power.

A 2018 report by the ministry of social justice and empowerment says there are 39 sub-castes among Dalits in Punjab.

Five sub-castes constitute more than 80 per cent of the Dalit population. Mazhabi Sikhs comprise the largest share of 30 per cent, followed by Ravidassias (24 per cent) and Ad-Dharmis (11 per cent).

Congress candidate Channi belongs to the Ravidassia community and is known for its proximity with Dera Sachakhand Ballan which has a strong presence in the Doaba region, the area between the Beas and the Satluj rivers often dubbed as the hub of Dalit politics.

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The Doaba region comprises four districts — Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr that fall in two Lok Sabha constituencies — Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur.

The BJP has fielded incumbent MP Som Parkash’s wife Anita Som Parkash from Hoshiarpur, once a Congress bastion, while the Akali Dal has fielded Sohan Singh Thandal, and the BSP fielded Ranjit Kumar after its candidate Rakesh Soman left the party after two months of campaigning and joined AAP.

Yamini Gomar, who had fought the 2014 elections on an AAP ticket, is the Congress nominee from Hoshiarpur.

Of the state’s 117 assembly seats, 34 (one-third) seats are reserved for the scheduled castes.

Though Dalits, both among Sikhs and Hindus, are seen as the Congress’ traditional supporters, the Akalis bank on the Jat Sikhs (comprising 25 per cent of the population), while the present AAP government led by Bhagwant Mann has prominent Dalit leader Harpal Singh Cheema in his Cabinet.

In 1996, the BSP forged an alliance with the Akali Dal (Badal) in the parliamentary elections, and they won three of the four seats.

Punjab will vote in the seventh and last phase of the Lok Sabha elections on June 1.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at gulatiians@gmail.com)

–IANS

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Assam Police foil drug peddling attempt; 3 arrested

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Guwahati, June 16 (IANS) Assam Police have foiled an inter-state drug peddling attempt and arrested three narcotics peddlers including one resident of violence-hit Manipur on Sunday, officials said.

According to the police, the consignment of drugs was coming from Manipur and the peddlers were trying to deliver it somewhere in Goalpara district in Assam. However, the police foiled that attempt and seized contraband items.

An official said that the Special Task Force (STF) of Assam Police received prior information about the movement of narcotics in two vehicles.

“We received information that a notorious drug peddler, namely, Nasiruddin a.k.a. Nasir Bhai of Goalpara district and his associates in two vehicles would receive a narcotics consignment bound from Sora in Manipur to Goalpara which would be carried by a Manipuri carrier, namely Salim. He is a resident of Sora in the neighbouring state of Manipur,” he added.

The police said that a vehicle was intercepted in front of Boko Police Station in the Kamrup district and recovered at least 30 packets of heroin kept in a bag.

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“The total weight of the seized narcotics substances was 420 grams. Three occupants of the vehicle, Nasir Bhai, Atikur and the Manipuri carrier Salim were apprehended,” a police officer said.

However, a second escorting vehicle which was looking out for police checks escaped.

The house of the driver, Shohidul Islam of Matia area was searched, but he escaped, leaving behind the vehicle and his family members resisted and facilitated his escape, according to a statement by the police.

Necessary legal actions in the matter were initiated, police mentioned.

Meanwhile, in a joint operation of Border Security Force (BSF) and Assam Police, at least 30,000 Yaba tablets were seized in Karimganj district on Sunday.

The BSF said that the market value of the seized contraband items must be around Rs 3 crore.

Two drug peddlers identified as Atikul Rehman and Saharul Islam were arrested. Both of them are residents of Karimganj district.

–IANS

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Haryana to soon start recruitment of 'Van Mitras'

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Chandigarh, June 16 (IANS) Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini on Sunday announced that recruitment of ‘Van Mitras’, who will be given an honorarium to take care of newly planted tree saplings, under the ‘Van Mitra’ Scheme will begin soon.

Presiding over a review meeting of the Forest and Wildlife Department, he also warned that if there is a delay in extinguishing the fire in forests, “accountability will be fixed from forest guards to senior officers”.

He directed the officers to ensure arrangements for supplying water from canals or tube-wells to national parks like Kalesar, Sultanpur and other dense forests so that this water can be used by wildlife during extreme heat and to aid in extinguishing fires.

The CM directed the officers to regularly map existing plants and those planted annually under the plantation campaign using drones.

He reviewed in detail the annual plantation drive conducted by the Forest Department and directed that these plants be geo-tagged and their growth should be monitored for five years with the help of drones.

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The Chief Minister was informed that a budget of Rs 150 crore has been allocated for the plantation drive for 2024-25, while Rs 10 crore will be spent on herbal parks.

He also said illegal cutting of trees from the forest areas will not be tolerated, and if any employee is found to be complicit, action will be taken against them.

He also released a brochure for the ‘Pran Vayu Devta’ scheme. The Chief Minister was also informed that under the scheme, the state government plans to provide an annual pension of Rs 2,750 to those who take care of trees over 75 years old. So far, 3,819 such trees have been identified under the scheme.

–IANS

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Eknath Shinde defends Sena leader Waikar's LS poll victory, dismisses oppn's 'EVM malfunction' claims

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Mumbai, June 16 (IANS) Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena supremo Eknath Shinde on Sunday strongly defended the victory of his party leader Ravindra Waikar from Mumbai North West constituency against Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Amol Kirtikar while dismissing the opposition’s charges of malfunctioning of EVMs at the counting centre.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister also questioned the opposition’s move to raise doubts over the EVMs’ functioning only in case of Waikar’s victory.

“The people of the constituency have elected Ravindra Waikar, and it is a people’s victory. The opposition is misleading the people over the EVM,” Shinde said while taking a swipe at the opposition, reiterating that Waikar had been elected by the people.

Waikar has rebutted the opposition charges, saying that it has been done because of its defeat.

“There were policemen, candidates and the candidates’ representatives present at the counting centre. So how can Ravindra Waikar go in and do something different? I don’t know how this is possible. The Opposition is unable to digest its defeat and therefore these allegations are made,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the Returning Officer of Mumbai North West Constituency Vandana Suryavanshi has also denied the malfunctioning of the EVMs.

”EVMs are standalone devices without any wired or wireless connectivity with units outside the EVM system. Advanced technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to rule out any possibility of manipulation. Standards include conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents,” the Returning Officer said.

The denial by Shinde, Waikar and the Returning Officer came after the Opposition alleged that there was a malpractice in the counting of votes in Mumbai North West constituency.

Waikar defeated Kirtikar by just 48 votes.

Waikar’s brother-in-law has been accused of taking a mobile phone to the counting centre.

–IANS

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We all will work for the nation, says Rijiju says after meeting Kharge

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju on Sunday met Congress President and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge for discussions ahead of the coming session of Parliament and asserted that all will work for the betterment of the country.

The first session of the 18th Lok Sabha is scheduled to commence on June 24 and will go on till July 3. The oath-taking ceremony of new MPs and the election of the Speaker will be held during the session.

Rijiju, in his social media post, said that he had a “pleasant” meeting with the opposition leader, who shared many experiences of his own life.

“I had a pleasant courtesy meeting with Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress Party President Shri Mallikarjun Kharge ji. He shared with me about many valuable experiences of his life. Together, we all will work for the nation,” he said on X.

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Rijiju, a BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh, was made a Cabinet Minister in the third consecutive NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in charge of Parliamentary Affairs and Minority Affairs. While he earlier served as the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Minority Affairs and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Sports and Youth Affairs, he was made the Law Minister in 2021 and later shifted to the Earth Sciences and Food Processing Industries Ministries.

–IANS

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Eknath Shinde tells party cadres to start preparations for Maha Assembly polls

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Mumbai, June 16 (IANS) Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena supremo Eknath Shinde on Sunday told the party leaders, ministers, MPs, MLAs and office bearers to start preparations for the upcoming Assembly elections.

Eknath Shinde also stressed on launching the membership drive and focussing on updating the electoral rolls.

The Maharashtra CM, who reviewed the preparations for the Shiv Sena’s 58th anniversary on June 19, said that the party has retained its strongholds including Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, Konkan, Thane and Palghar.

“… and now, the time is to further consolidate Shiv Sena’s position in the rest of Maharashtra,” he said.

The Chief Minister also said that the party’s anniversary would be celebrated in a “big way”.

Eknath Shinde congratulated all his colleagues for the success of the party in the recently held Lok Sabha elections but asked them to correct the mistakes made in the general elections and to prepare more efficiently for the upcoming assembly elections.

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He said even as people are supporting the Shiv Sena, the party leaders and workers will have to work more vigorously to change the wrong narrative set by the opposition about the change in the Constitution.

Eknath Shinde said all efforts will be made during the assembly elections so that the opposition would not repeat wrong narratives.

He said that all Hindu festivals like Dahihandi, Ganapati, Dussehra, Diwali should be celebrated with much enthusiasm including Ashadhi Wari of Pandharpur.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra CM announced that the government will implement a tree plantation campaign in every district to tackle climate change.

He directed all district collectors to plant one lakh trees in each district. In addition, he added that the Shiv Sena will also conduct a similar campaign across the state.

–IANS

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