OBC might tilt the scale in Himachal Pradesh Northwestern District Parliament Seat

PALAMPUR: While the BJP had consolidated its Gaddi vote bank by according tribal status to the entire community in the state when it was in power during year 1998 to 2003, the disillusionment of other backward classes (OBCs) may upset its applecart in the politically sensitive Kangra-Chamba parliament seat in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

Other backward classes have not been exactly pleased with the indifferent attitude of the successive governments towards their demands for 27 per cent reservation in government jobs. Vidya Sagar, a former minister in BJP government from Kangra, had resigned in protest against the failure of the Dhumal government in 2002 to increase the quota for OBC. He had alleged that BJP had promised that the OBC quota in the government jobs would be enhanced to 27%. However, this did not happen.

Considering all these factor, the congress had fielded Professor Chander Kumar as its candidate for coming Lok Sabha elections from Kangra Chamba lok sabha seat, who belongs to other back ward classes (OBC) while the BJP candidate Dr Rajan Sushant is a Brahamin.

Other backward classes, which constitute about 20 per cent of the states population, are mostly concentrated in the merged areas, comprising Kangra, Una and parts of Hamirpur district. They can tilt the electoral scales in 18 assembly constituencies, where they account for 20 per cent to 70 per cent of the electorates. The highest percentage of the OBCs is in Kangra and Nagrota Bagwan (about 70 per cent), followed by Shahpur, Guler, Paonta-Doon, Nadaun, Jwalamukhi, Chintpurani, Gagret and Santokhgarh. The other constituencies where the backward classes have a sizeable presence include Jaswan, Nurpur, Jwali, Una, Dharamsala, Sulah and Palampur.

The OBCs became a significant political force following ‘mandalisation’ of the political scene during the V.P. Singh regime. The impact was more severe in the lower Himachal Pradesh, which saw a prolonged anti-Mandal agitation. The BJP, which was in power at that time, lost the support of OBCs, and it was routed in the 1993 Assembly elections.

The Congress, headed by Vir Bhadara Singh which came to power subsequently made all effort to please this community , initially reserved 10 per cent jobs for the OBCs and set up a commission to decide their exact quota on the basis of population. It raised the quota from 12 per cent to 15 per cent and finally 18 per cent on the recommendation of the commission. However, despite all this it was not able to keep its OBC vote bank intact and a sizeable chunk of backward cases swayed back to the BJP in last assembly elections of year 2008.

A section of OBC in Kangra district is in fix either to vote for BJP or congress. It was OBC factor which had defeated Shanta Kumar in last parliamentary election from Kangra Chamba constitutency against congress candidate Chaudhry Chander Kumar.

The OBCs are also not happy with the congress as the Virbhadar Singh did not induct any OBC minister to his cabinet from the merged areas after the down sizing of his cabinet. Their only leader Chander Kumar was made MP, thereafter there was none in the state cabinet to represent such a large community of the state. However, Prem Kumar Dhumal had inducted two OBC minister in his cabinet from the OBC community this time. It is evident from the facts on the record that OBC particularly in Kangra will play significant role in the assembly elections.

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