As announced by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders earlier that the party’s focus would now be on strengthening its grip in Doaba in the coming few months, party convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will visit Dera Sachkhand at Ballan village of this district on March 15.
The dera has a strong sway among the Dalits across Doaba and in other parts and political parties try to woo it to tilt political equations in their favour. A senior official of the dera management talked about Kejriwal’s visit.
When contacted, AAP organisation-building head in Punjab Durgesh Pathak shared the itinerary saying Kejriwal would “reach the dera around 4pm”, after visiting former BSP supremo Kanshi Ram’s family in Rupnagar and paying obeisance at the Kiratpur Sahib gurdwara. The dera is situated around 7 km from Jalandhar.
It is for the first time that the Delhi CM will visit a dera with a view to garnering political support for his party.
Kejriwal’s move to visit the dera has come against the earlier “moral stand” of the party against the proliferation of deras in Punjab. In an interview to Hindustan Times during his previous tour to Punjab in February, when he was asked about his view on “dera politics”, he had denied commenting on it saying his party was beyond the politics of religion and caste.
A senior AAP leader from Doaba told HT that the move to visit the dera had been taken after analysing all pros and cons.
Earlier, there was a feeling in a section of the party that Kejriwal’s visit to the dera might irritate the dominant and radical Sikh community, till now considered the stronghold of the party.
“However, when the senior leadership was told that politics is not possible in Punjab without the blessings of the deras, the move to visit Ballan was finalised,” a leader said.
Though in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the party managed to win four seats with a total vote share of 24.4%, at that time too, the AAP leaders refrained from visiting any dera.
The move is yet another effort by the AAP to woo Dalits, who comprise the largest vote share in Punjab. The same day, BSP supremo Mayawati will also be in Punjab for a party rally.
With the next assembly elections in Punjab headed for an exciting triangular contest, the Dalit share of votes in the state could be the key to who wears the crown.
On February 13, Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh had also visited Dera Ballan to hold a secret meeting with dera head Sant Niranjan Dass.
The dera has been “close” to the Congress and BSP in the last few elections.