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Posted at: May 26, 2018, 2:01 AM; last updated: May 26, 2018, 2:01 AM (IST)

Caste politics takes centre stage

Deepkamal Kaur

Tribune News Service

Shahkot (Jalandhar), May 25

While the Congress started its campaign on development promises and SAD on Panthic agenda, two weeks later caste politics has taken the centre stage in Shahkot.

The constituency has a sizable vote bank from the Kamboj and Valmiki communities, both comprising 40,000 of 1.8 lakh voters.

Leaders of the Kamboj community, which has maximum vote share, got prominence in all rallies of both parties. The Akali Dal tried to woo the community by roping in prominent Kamboj leaders from other parties, including AAP’s Amarjit Thind and Col CD Kamboj (retd). On Friday, the Kamboj Maha Sabha, led by Prem Singh Swai Singh Wala, also offered support to the SAD.

While the Akali Dal deployed former minister Upinderjit Kaur in the constituency for campaign, the Congress used its former Kamboj minister Lal Singh for canvassing. Lal Singh went ahead to appease two dissenting community leaders Capt Harminder Singh and Puran Thind and got them along.

To woo high number of Valmiki voters, the SAD ‘stooped low’ to rope in BJP’s Hans Raj Hans, who had dumped the party in 2014. The Congress, too, smartly deputed MLA Raj Kumar Verka and former minister Joginder Mann, who are its most prominent Valmiki faces.

Both Valmiki and Kamboj leaders were made to work in specific pockets of the constituency where proper house marking was done. Door-to-door campaign was carried out there by party leaders.

Of the 17 ministers in the state government, four were specifically left out as they did not matter in terms of caste. Those who have not campaigned so far include Hindu face Brahm Mohindra, Razia Sultana (a Muslim minister) and Aruna Chaudhary (from Ravidassia, a community which does not have much representation here). Charanjit Channi, who is appearing in PhD exam, too did not join the campaign.

The third most prominent community in the segment is Jat Sikhs, from which both Congress candidate Hardev Singh Laddi and SAD candidate Naib Singh Kohar hail.

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