All players eye Dalit vote bank

LASWARA (BISHNAH): Laswara village has virtually been stormed by all candidates.

All players eye Dalit vote bank

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in Kathua. A tribune Photo

Dinesh Manhotra

Tribune News Service

Laswara (Bishnah), Dec 17

Laswara village has virtually been stormed by all candidates. There is competition among political parties to meet the Dalit vote bank as it has a sizeable Dalit population. It is one of the largest villages in the Bishnah Assembly seat. It is situated on the Jammu-Arnia road. It comprises over 4,500 votes.

“This village was considered as a citadel of the BSP. After 2002, the party had failed to consolidate itself. Every party is trying woo Dalit votes,” said Rashpal Bhagat of Laswara.

The village is not an isolated case. There are scores of villages and hamlets in Jammu and Kathua districts which are dominated by Dalits. As the electoral battle for the last 20 Assembly seats has shifted to Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts, political parties have intensified their campaigns to draw Dalit votes.

In the Hindu-dominated districts of Kathua and Jammu, comprising 16 Assembly seats, Dalit votes constitute around 25 per cent of the electorate. Dalit votes are the deciding factor in Billawar, Basholi, Kathua, Hiranagar, Bishnah, RS Pura, Marh, Nagrota, Raipur Domana, Khour, Gandhi Nagar, Akhnoor, Chhamb, Nowshera and Kalakot seats.

The BJP, which needs Dalit votes to win the maximum number of seats in Jammu and Kathua districts, has deputed its Dalit leaders to convince voters.

Scheduled Caste leaders from all over the country have fanned out in Dalit-dominated pockets like Kathua, Bishnah and RS Pura to conduct door-to-door campaigns. Congress leaders are tying to give the message that it is the only party which is a well-wisher of weaker and marginalised members. NC campaigners NC are making all-efforts to mobilise the Dalit vote bank.

The Dalit vote bank of the BSP has been shrinking since 1996. The party has been reduced to a non-existing force in the present political scenario. In the 1996 Assembly elections, the BSP had triumphed in four seats, an all-time high. With the passage of time, the party’s base had eroded.

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