Dalits in Delhi hold a huge electoral significance with 12 of the total 70 assembly seats reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. The community forms nearly 25% of the total 1.3 crore voters and have the power to sway fortunes of any party.
No wonder, PM Narendra Modi himself launched his much-publicised Swachh Bharat Abhiyan from Delhi’s Valmiki Basti — a colony of sanitation workers.
Considered a traditional votebank of the Congress, the Dalits shifted loyalty to the debutante Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2013 elections. AAP won nine of the 12 reserved seats in 2013.
This time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is going all out to woo the community as they know that the 25-lakh strong voters can help the party get majority in the Delhi Assembly which the party missed by a mere 4 seats last year. The party is looking at a decisive vote this year and if it is able to bring Dalits around, its claim to the seat of power in Delhi will get the much-required boost.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s endeavour had no electoral overtones, it held great symbolical significance.
The BJP’s central leadership, which is directly overlooking the preparations for Delhi elections, had directed the state unit to bring prominent Dalit leaders, thinkers to its fold so that the party could send out a message to the community.
Party sources told HT that a number of prominent Dalit faces may get the party ticket. In the last assembly elections, the BJP had fared poorly and managed to grab only 2 seats -- Bawana and Gokalpur -- while the Congress was able to retain only Sultanpur Majra -- all Dalit-dominated seats.
“Our special focus is on seats where we have never won so far, including Mangolpuri, Sultanpur Majra, Ambedkar Nagar, Deoli and Kondli. We will field strong candidates there and our state unit is busy finalising the names that will be sent to the national leadership,” said another leader.
On Friday MP Udit Raj, who has inducted several Dalit leaders into the party recently, is organising a Dalit Maha Sammelan to honour leaders of the Dalit community.
Udit Raj, a prominent Dalit face and a social activist who went on to win the Northwest parliamentary constituency, and former Congress MLA Arvinder Singh Lovely (not to be confused with his namesake who heads the Delhi Congress) joined the party recently. He is likely to be given a ticket.
Apart from them, hundreds of Dalit workers have joined the party in the past couple of months. During his first poll rally at Ramlila Maidan, Modi had laid a lot of emphasis on the marginalised and poor sections of the city and promised to provide a house to all the slum dwellers by 2020.
The party has directed Dalit MPs, of the BJP and its NDA partners, to campaign aggressively in the reserved constituencies such as Trilokpuri, Ambedkar Nagar, Deoli, Kondli, etc.
“For the first time, we have appointed observers in each of the 70 assembly segments and our special focus is on the Dalit-dominated seats. Our workers have been asked to highlight the Swachh Bharat mission, which has put the emphasis back on the sanitation workers, whose welfare has been ignored by the Congress and AAP. The Prime Minister cleaning the Valmiki Colony himself was a huge gesture,” said a senior BJP leader.
Sources in the BJP said BJP leaders are going out to enrol members of the community from other constituencies as well.