BSP’s bid to re-establish itself
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by Mr Kanshi Ram is working hard to re-establish itself as a political force in Punjab. A decade ago, the BSP had become a force to reckon with but it has faced a decline in its political fortunes in recent years in the state.
To rejuvenate the party, obviously with an eye on the coming Assembly elections, Mr Kanshi Ram has launched a massive political and social campaign in the state. He is not only holding political rallies but has also asked his party cadres to wage war against casteism and fight for the rights of contractual farm labourers, called “siri” in local parlance.
The party has invoked the philosophy and teachings of the Sikh Gurus in its bid to establish a casteless order in the state. “Though it is the duty of Sikh religious leaders to enforce the philosophy of the Sikh Gurus to remove casteism from society, the BSP leadership is now out to accomplish this task”, said Mr Man Singh Manhera, a secretary of the BSP who has been made in charge of the party’s ongoing struggle against casteism and for securing the rights of “siris”. Party activists have been staging a dharna here for the past one week.
The BSP is also using Sikh symbols and Gurbani to drive home the message across the state that the Sikh Gurus were the first ones to wage a relentless war against casteism in the country and to provide honour and dignity to the downtrodden sections.
“First we started marches from three Sikh Takhts to launch a movement against casteism”, said Mr Man Singh. The starting of these marches was a symbolic act to drive home the message that though there was no place for casteism in Sikhism, there are some sections among the Sikhs who are not treated on a par with the others in the community,” he added.
About one lakh activists of the party will march to Delhi on July 14 from Punjab to hand over a memorandum to the Prime Minister and also to the President urging them to frame a law for ending the “siri” system in Punjab. Mr Man Singh said Punjab was the only state where such a system prevailed. A “siri” had to work round the year and was not entitled to any leave.
The BSP was also engaged in a ideological war against certain so-called panthic leaders. “Big landlords have established their control over religious institutions, Panthic politics and state power. Such people do not want that Dalits should have any say and stake in the state’s political system. So, one way or other they try to condemn political organisations like the BSP, which organised Dalits to use their vote to empower themselves”, said Mr Man Singh while trying to justify the struggle launched by his party.
“We have decided to contest the SGPC elections, due to be held at the end of this year, to break the monopoly of certain political forces on the Management of Sikh religious places in this part of the country”, he said. “The maximum number of sacrifices have been made by Dalits and other downtrodden sections among the Sikhs to uphold the philosophy and teachings of the Sikh Gurus, but they have not been given their due place by those having control over Sikh religious affairs at present”, he asserted.
Regarding political issues, Mr Man Singh said that at the moment party’s thinking was not to enter into an electoral alliance with any political party in the state. “The politics of alliances cost the party dear in the past and we do not want to repeat this”, he said. When asked who would be projected as the Chief Minister, he named Mr Ravi Inder Singh, who led a section of the MLAs to raise the banner of revolt against the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Asked whether this decision would be against the ideology of the party which was against big landlords, Mr Man Singh said Mr Ravi Inder Singh fully agreed with the party’s political line.
He said that as the promotion of brotherhood was one of the main slogans of the party, it would give the party ticket to all sections, including Jat Sikhs, traders, businessmen, etc.
The party had appointed a secretary in each Lok Sabha constituency to gear up the party machinery. In each Assembly constituency, a joint secretary would be appointed for this purpose. An 11-member committee of party workers had been set up at the polling booth level by dividing each constituency into 18-20 sectors. There was a target to mobilise 2.40 lakh activists by August 31 to work for the party to contest the Assembly elections. Party activists were organising cycle marches to mobilise the party cadres.