Other than the four assembly seats where the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidates are contesting, (out of total 70 assembly constituencies), the BJP wants the SAD to focus on 18 other constituencies which has high Punjabi and Sikh population. The SAD is contesting polls in coalition with the BJP and both have a coalition government in Punjab.
Of the four seats on which Akali candidates are contesting, Rajouri Garden, Hari Nagar and Kalkaji constituencies have around 40% Sikh population, while Shahdara has only about 5% Sikhs. Sikhs constitute around 7% of population in Delhi. Sources said the SAD had decided to tap into the Sikh electorate through the 700 local Singh Sabha Gurdwaras in the national capital.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that has emerged major opponent of BJP has penetrated into Sikh pockets and BJP want SAD to play a key role in turning 7% Sikh electorate in the favour of saffron party candidates. “We would go to all 700 singh sabhas hold meetings and ask Sikh to vote for BJP-SAD candidates,” said SAD’s Delhi affairs incharge Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, accepting that AAP candidates has found liking with Sikh voters.
He said that other than four seats on which Akali candidates are contesting, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal would campaign in other parts of Delhi, as desired by the BJP.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa is contesting from Rajouri Garden on the SAD symbol ‘scales’, while Avtar Singh Hit is contesting from Hari Nagar, Jatinder Singh Shanty from Shahdara and Harmeet Singh Kalka from Kalkaji on the BJP symbol ‘lotus’. In the previous polls, the SAD had won three of the four seats.
The SAD which was apprehensive initially got into the poll mode on Wednesday by appointing senior party leaders, ministers from Punjab cabinet, MPs and MLAs as coordinators on four assembly constituencies on which Akali candidates are contesting.
The relations between the SAD and BJP were going through a rough phase after the below-par performance of the coalition in the parliamentary polls of 2014, in Punjab; lately, the alliance partners seemed to have called truce.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday appointed four coordinators who will supervise the entire election campaign, including Rajya Sabha MP and SAD secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Rajya Sabha MP and SAD general secretary Naresh Gujral and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh GK.
Individual responsibility for the constituencies was also allocated. MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, Punjab cabinet minister Surjit Rakhra and Charanjit Brar will look after Kalka seat. Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Bhunder and SAD spokesman Maheshinder Grewal will be incharge of Hari Nagar seat.
Cabinet minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon and former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan will look after the Shahdara seat. Revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Istri Akali Dal president Bibi Jagir Kaur have been made incharge of the Rajouri Garden seat. Meanwhile, Daljit Singh Cheema, Punjab cabinet minister, will head the party office in Delhi.
In the meeting in Delhi, SAD leaders passed a resolution thanking the Centre for bestowing the Padma Vibhushan award to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. The resolution also hailed the services rendered by Badal for the good of Punjab as well as the country.