In a bid to woo the Dalit vote bank in Punjab, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will be in the state, again, on March 15, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dalit leader Kanshi Ram.
Kejriwal has just ended a five-day tour of the state in the run-up to the next assembly elections.
“We are yet to work out the modalities of the trip,” said Punjab incharge of the party Sanjay Singh. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati will also address a rally in Nawanshahr the same day.
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 finally wears the crown. Punjab has the largest share of scheduled castes in its population (almost 32%), and though the BSP’s share of votes in the state has been steadily on the decrease, the party still commands over 4% of the votes.
In 1992, the BSP had won nine seats mopping 16.32% votes. However, the BSP’s hold among Dalits has been slipping since. The party won only one seat in 1997, its vote share dipping to 7.48%. Since then the BSP has not won any seat in any election and its vote share came down to 5.75% in 2009 and 4.29% in the 2012 assembly polls.
The BSP’s loss has generally been seen as the Congress’s gain but the AAP, with its ‘common man’ anthem is expected to appeal to the Dalit voters in the state. Kejriwal’s visit also becomes significant following the state Congress head and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s announcement that he would talk to Mayawati for a possible tie-up for the forthcoming polls.
List by April-end
With polls expected to take place by the end of this year, the AAP will be the first party to announce its candidates. “We had earlier thought we would announce our candidates by March-end. But now the first list will be released by April-end,” said Sanjay Singh.
He said the criteria for selection of candidates would be tweaked for Punjab. “We learnt some vital lessons from the last Lok Sabha polls. We had asked our volunteers to choose through voting a candidate from a set of shortlisted candidates; it has led to severe rifts among our volunteers. We will not follow that process here. The final process of shortlisting candidates will be decided in the meeting of the working committee to be held in the second week of March,” Sanjay said.
The current ‘Parivar Jodo’ campaign of the AAP will also end on March 15, by which the party is aiming at bringing 20 lakh families in the state to work for the AAP for the elections.