The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab has planned a three-pronged strategy to win next year’s assembly election, aiming to reach out to Sikhs, Dalits and religious sects with mass appeal.
Locked in a close contest with the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to woo the Sikhs, who account for more than 50% of the population, the SAD is desperate to retain its support among Sikhs and Dalits.
In the coming days, the party will showcase the Rs200 crore-plus worth facelift to the Golden Temple at Amritsar, a pet project of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, as the “first significant” works at Harmandir Sahib after Maharaja Ranjit Singh carried out gold and marble work in the early 19th century.
Plans are afoot to send 10 buses each from every assembly constituency daily to the Golden Temple to let people experience the “change”. The temple attracts nearly one lakh visitors every day.
SAD leader Naresh Gujral says his party will showcase the achievements of the Badal government in sectors such as power, roads, infrastructure and others.
“A negative campaign was built around the issue of drug menace. Punjab is the only state that is fighting it seriously,” he told Hindustan Times.
Beyond that, the SAD is also working on its caste arithmetic. The Badal regime is also erecting memorials at Amritsar in the name of Valmiki and Guru Ravidas, two revered figures among Dalits who account for about 32 per cent of Punjab’s population.
The SAD won majority of the seats in Dalit stronghold areas last time but fears losing grip over them ahead of next year’s election. It received a shot in the arm last month, when Seth Satpal Mall, a key member of the management of Dera Ballan, and Kabir Das, another pointsman of the Dera, joined SAD.