Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal will visit the family of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder, the late Kanshi Ram in Punjab on his birth anniversary on March 15. The same day, BSP supremo Maywati is also in Punjab for a party rally.
This will be the AAP chief’s second visit to the assembly poll-bound state which has a sizable Dalit population, in a fortnight. The BSP founder was born in Pirthipur Bunga village in Rupnagar district of Punjab.
“He has been invited by the family of Kanshi Ram and villagers of Bunga. So, he will be visiting them on March 15, Ram’s birth anniversary,” said an AAP leader. The elections in Punjab are slated for early next year. The AAP has four MPs, all from Punjab, though two remain suspended from the party over “disciplinary issues”.
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. (with HTC inputs from Chandigarh)