Punjab polls: Bhagat community that can swing the polls stands divided over parties, names

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Jalandhar West (Reserved) constituency, which has been witnessing a close contest between Congress, BJP and AAP, is a unique constituency in itself where the Bhagat community – one of the Dalit communities among 39 Schedule castes (SC) in the state – can play a major role in any elections, however, it’s voters are divided.

This is the only constituency in the state where this community has a maximum population and can decide the fate of any candidate. The seat has 1.69 lakh voters of which nearly 35,000 (21%) belong to this community. Even though Ravidasia and Valmiki votes are also present in a sizeable number here they form a majority in other reserved constituencies where the presence of the Bhagat community is rare.

In one such example, Jalandhar North and Jalandhar Cantt assembly segments have only around 11,000 votes of the Bhagat community.

The Congress sitting MLA Sushil Kumar Rinku is facing Mahinder Bhagat from BJP and Sheetal Angural from AAP. In the past five elections, former MLA and minister Chuni Lal Bhagat (BJP) won on this constituency thrice – 1997, 2007, &2012 – while in 2002 and 2017, the seat was won by Congress.

Though Mahinder Bhagat belongs to the Bhagat community, a couple of Congress Councillors from the Bhagat community can also swing votes in their favour. People of this community had migrated from Pakistan’s Sialkot and they mainly work in the sports industry.

They are followers of Kabir Panth and there is also a Kabir Mandir in the constituency. Rajesh Bhagat, mahant of Punjab Kabir Chaura Math Mulgadi Sidhpeeth Kashi Banaras, said that this is the single seat in the entire state with a pre-dominant presence of Bhagat community. “If they are united, they can swing votes in favour of any candidate. However, they have different political affiliation,” he said, adding that if a candidate from the same community is in fray, it doesn’t mean that the entire community will vote for that person.



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