No new industry, lowly paid jobs and declining agricultural output have left Hoshiarpur voters, especially the youth, high and dry. They had been promised new units in Hoshiarpur town and the surrounding rural areas, which would have fetched them jobs. That did not happen.
In the constituency, that has the highest literacy rate in Punjab, the youth are shifting abroad for a better life. Dheeraj, a student from Khepran village near Dholbaha, says: “It is pointless staying here when there are no jobs. What good is the ‘Ghar Ghar Naukri’ programme when there is no business/ industry in the area?”
Pardeep from the adjoining Nila Naloyan village is doing a diploma in electrical engineering. “The course will be helpful in realising my foreign dreams. I want to bail out my family from economic hardship. No political party does anything except make tall promises. Only one bus comes to our village in the afternoon. Life is really hard”, he says.
A large part of the constituency comprises the Kandi belt where agriculture is least remunerative. Maize, the most commonly grown crop, is often destroyed by wild animals. “The government has announced a subsidy on fencing but most farmers are yet to avail of the benefit”, says Sarwan Singh of Phambian village in Sham Chaurasi.
Owners of small and medium industry are a dejected lot. Ever since Century Ply set up a unit on the Dasuya-Hoshiarpur road, 25 small plywood units in Hoshiarpur have been awaiting a special package. Owners of Carbon units, that meet 80 per cent demand countrywide, rue the commercial power rates being charged from them. It has been a bitter experience for Kinnow growers too. Business has been poor in the past few years.
As Hoshiarpur has a large number of NRIs, sitting MP and Union MoS Vijay Sampla pushed for an airport near Adampur, inviting criticism from his rivals, who accused him of appeasing the NRIs. The Jejon-Amritsar train service was started last month for which the SAD-BJP coalition claims credit. The Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur highway is yet to be completed. The project has been mired in a land acquisition scam. Road widening on several stretches is yet to begin.
The road connecting Hariana and Dholbaha, further leading to Gagret in Himachal Pradesh, has been washed out. The slushy stretch is almost unmotorable. Local resident Hardeep Kumar laments: “It has been 18 months since the road almost vanished, but no politician has paid any heed.”
Problems aplenty, yet the fate of this reserved constituency will be determined by Dalits, deras and NRIs.
Four Assembly segments – Chabbewal, Sham Chaurasi, Sri Hargobindpur and Phagwara — are reserved. Five, including Hoshiarpur, Dasuya, Mukerian, Urmar and Bholath, have a sizeable number of Dalit voters. An estimated 38 per cent voters in Hoshiarpur are Dalits — 28 per cent Ravidassia and 10 per cent Valmiki. Sainis and Backward Classes account for 22 per cent voters. Lubanas, concentrated in Bholath and Tanda and numbering 1 lakh, too will play a key role.
Sitting MP Vijay Sampla
BJP’s Vijay Sampla is Union MoS for Social Justice and Empowerment. He polled 3,46,643 votes against Congress’ MS Kaypee who got 3,33,061 votes.
BJP: Vijay Sampla, Phagwara MLA Som Parkash
Cong: Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal, Pawan Adia, ex-ministers Santosh Chaudhary, Joginder Mann and Sarwan S Phillaur
AAP: It has fielded Doaba zone in-charge Dr Ravjot Singh; BSP undecided on alliance
Seven of the nine Assembly seats are held by the Congress and one each by the BJP and AAP. Of the total seats, four are reserved (Chabbewal, Sham Chaurasi, Sri Hargobindpur and Phagwara). The other five seats are Hoshiarpur, Dasuya, Mukerian, Urmar and Bholath.