As the Aam Admi Party (AAP) emerging stronger in the Delhi assembly contest, it is getting a thrust in mobilisation through its Punjab cadres who have camped in the national capital for weeks now. The most important task at hand is taking voters to the polling stations on February 7, and that’s where they might play a key role too.
Even as old warhorses Congress, BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have cadres to do that job, AAP has put much reliance on its volunteers from Punjab, from where it won all of its four Lok Sabha seats. Law says outsiders have to leave the polling area on election day, but these volunteers are working a way out. “The issue is our vehicles that have non-Delhi numbers, but we have made alternate arrangements,” said an AAP volunteer from Punjab, one of around 2,500 who have been assigned booth-level duties.
Spread across all 70 assembly constituencies in Delhi, the Punjab cadres are particularly prominent in the 18 segments that have significant Sikh and other Punjabi population. These include the four seats on which Akali candidates (three of them on BJP symbol) are contesting — Rajouri Garden, Hari Nagar, Shahdara and Kalkaji. Aimed at checking distribution of drugs, liquor and money, the AAP volunteers’ alertness has the party in buoyancy here too and keeping the opposing camps busy. Other parties too have deployed workers from Punjab in these areas, and ‘secret’ information is passed on quickly.
According to AAP leaders, though they have volunteers from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and even Gujarat, the highest number is from Punjab and Maharashtra.
“Around 7% Sikh voters in the national capital are a deciding factor, and they are tilting towards AAP. Party volunteers form Punjab have played a major role in galvanising their support,” the party’s Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chottepur told HT. He too has been in Delhi for a fortnight.
Chhotepur, in fact, sees Delhi polls as a prelude to the civic body polls in Punjab, which he announced that his party would contest, and also the 2017 assembly polls. The civic polls are likely just couple of weeks after the February 10 Delhi results. (See interview for more.)
He added that an election is essentially contested by the local unit but outside support plays the role of morale-booster. “Our humble-looking volunteers are no less than the rich and mighty supporters of the Akali Dal who move in big cars,” he said.
Other constituencies where AAP volunteers from Punjab are stationed include Tilak Nagar, Moti Nagar, Shalimar Bagh, Janakpuri, Jungpura, Rohini, Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Sadar Bazaar, Timarpur, Trilokpuri, Vikaspuri, and Model Town, besides New Delhi, from where party chief Arvind Kejriwal is contesting, and Krishna Nagar, where BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi is contesting. In Krishna Nagar, AAP’s Chandigarh Lok Sabha candidate and actress Gul Panag has been particularly visible, campaigning on a bike.
All four MPs — Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, Harinder Singh Khalsa, Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh — are engaged in campaigning across Delhi. Though no particular areas or seats are assigned to these MPs, they are present in election meetings. Dr Gandhi and Mann are particularly successful in drawing crowds.