Migrant in Punjab turn special ahead of polls

Wooing Bihar

Be it the harvest time or sowing season – a period when migrant labourers are wooed by landlords with lucrative wages, mobile phones, free accommodation and even non-vegetarian food once a day or the elections now, the soaring migrant population has always been critical to Punjab.

This election, Bihar comes to Punjab. The migrant population in the state can expect a strong dose of Bihari entertainment, Bhojpuri-flicks by artists and some high decibel of political rhetoric in dialect that they connect with fondly.

The migrant population, estimated to be about 8 lakh in the state, has an impact on many assembly seats in Punjab including segments in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Sangrur, which constitute the bulk of their numbers.

If the BJP is counting on Bihar CM Nitish Kumar with an eye on this vote bank and political mileage, the Congress is banking on member of parliament Subodh Kant Sahai. Both leaders, besides their electoral appeal and political stature, can connect well with the migrant population.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has invited Nitish Kumar to boost the party’s prospects in the elections. The parties have planned rallies in Ludhiana and elsewhere in the state where these leaders will be expected to deliver.

If all goes as planned, Big Boss famed Manoj Tiwari, a hugely popular Bhojpuri film actor, is on the list of celebrities who will campaign for the Congress. Tiwari is a big crowd puller.

Closer to the judgment day on January 30, plans are being fructified to invite several Bhojpuri performers including Ashmita Singh, Abhyanta  and Pawan Singh. But much of the success and schedule of these programmes could be hindered by the cap the Election Commission (EC) has laid on the maximum expenditure by a candidate during polls.

A Congress leader said, “The vote of the migrant population can be critical in deciding seats at times, even as their numbers are few. In some constituencies the winning margins have remained less and every vote will count.”

The BSP too is eyeing this vote bank. The party had raised the issue of scores of migrant votes not appearing in the voter list in Punjab with the EC. In the industrial town of Ludhiana alone, nearly 2.7 lakh migrants from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand are registered as voters.

As election dates draw near, the migrant population has become special for everyone. Sources said, several of the migrant population in Punjab cast votes in Punjab and also back home in UP, Bihar and other states like Uttarakhand.

Since the UP polls are in seven phases and will start four days after votes are cast in Punjab, relatives back home in UP and Uttarakhand are asking migrants to visit UP after the Punjab polls to cast their votes. Incentives, depending upon the number of family votes they have, that vary from return travel fare, TV sets, dish TVs, DVD players, are up for grabs.

In Punjab, political parties have delegated responsibilities to local leaders to keep the migrant population in good cheer, at least till votes are polled.

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