Greenhorns from the three key political parties are banking on the caste equation playing out in their favour in the bypoll in this constituency, located near the India-Pakistan border, on October 21. The seat fell vacant after Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal resigned from the state assembly, following his election to the Lok Sabha from Ferozepur. All three are contesting assembly elections for the first time; there are seven aspirants in all.
Political analysts say the Rai Sikh community, a Scheduled Caste, comprises 35% voters in the constituency. The Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the SAD are, thus, all eyeing the community’s votes. SAD’s Raj Singh Dibbipura and AAP candidate Mohinder Singh Kachoora are Rai Sikhs, whereas Congress nominee Raminder Awla is a Khatri leader from Guru Har Sahai in adjoining Ferozepur district. The SAD has kept the seat since 2007.
Pitches of SAD, Cong and AAP
Rai Sikhs are known for recording a turnout of 90% and voting en bloc. Analysts say polling pattern would play an important role. On Wednesday, Dibbipura was seen asking for votes for development works that Sukhbir had done. Congress’ Awla, a millionaire, promised to establish a personal industrial unit in this ‘backward’ constituency.
Addressing a gathering at Baba Bhumman Shah dera at Gumani Wala village, Dibbipura urged villagers to vote to respect the works of Sukhbir.
“Jalalabad witnessed unprecedented development under the Akali regime. In addition to constructing roads in urban and rural areas, Sukhbir focused on strengthening public schools and health-care. Now, as the SAD chief has already announced that he would re-contest the next assembly elections from Jalalabad, we should unite to poll for the victory of Sukhbir,” Dibbipura added.
A shy public orator, SAD nominee was accompanied by senior leaders, including Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Parambans Singh Bunty Romana, who is the Students Organisation of India (SOI) national convener and party spokesperson and Sukhbir’s close aide, Satinder Jeet Singh Manta.
“Congress candidate Awla is an industrialist and villagers will certainly have no direct access to him. People have seen working of Sukhbir as on their MLA and it was unmatched. People will make me win for development introduced by the former deputy CM,” Dibbipura told HT.
However, the Congress candidate wooed voters with a promise to generate employment.
“Besides the state government’s initiatives, I promise to set up an agro-power or some other factory at Jalalabad from my family business. As part of my social responsibility, I am already operating a free ambulance service equipped with ventilator and life-saving equipment,” Awla said at a nukkar meeting at Jhuggian Pandatan village.
Accompanied by sports minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, two-time former MP Sher Singh Ghubaya and veteran Congress leader Hans Raj Josan, Awla, a former Youth Congress leader claimed complete support of the party.
AAP candidate Kachoora blamed the SAD and the Congress for inadequate development works in the segment. “Villages located near the international border continue to battle for better educational opportunities. Irrigation and drinking water facilities in rural pockets are a grave cause of worry. The SAD and the Congress leadership is only busy in taking credit for the construction of roads,” he added.
Seven in fray
Support from Rai Sikh community that forms 35% of the electorate will be crucial
Jalalabad constituency profile
Analysts say polling pattern will play an important role with Rai Sikhs, a Scheduled Caste community, comprising 35% voters in the constituency.
Polling booths 239
Total voters 2.04 lakh
Male 1.06 lakh
Third gender 4
Total service voters 815
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