Nearly six months after the party picked up Vijay Sampla, a Scheduled Caste (SC) face and first-time Hoshiarpur MP, for the post of Union minister of state (MoS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) high command is set to play the Dalit card yet again to penetrate the community’s voter base by organising its SC cell’s two-day national executive meeting that will start here on May 16.
The national executive meeting, which will be held for the first time in the state, has been designed keeping in mind Punjab, which will go to the assembly elections in 2017, and where the saffron party is trying hard to expand its base after having more than 18 lakh members, sources said.
“The inauguration of the meeting will be done by national party president Amit Shah on May 16. This will be Shah’s second visit to Punjab in a span of one month as he is coming on May 2 to Amritsar as well,” said BJP state secretary Subhash Sharma.
Earlier, Shah was scheduled to meet party office-bearers in Jalandhar as well as part of a special meeting on May 2.
In Punjab, which has the highest percentage of SCs (around 30%) among all states, the BJP has set the ball rolling for the 2017 assembly polls by giving a ministerial berth to the Hoshiarpur MP, who is a Ravidassia community leader.
“The high command has specially chosen Doaba for the party’s national executive meeting of the SC morcha as we want to pay more focus on the Dalit community which has nearly 39% vote share in 25 assembly segments of the region. Shah is also likely to address a public rally on the occasion under the banner of the SC morcha,” said Dilbag Rai, president, SC morcha, Punjab.
Already having a strong base among urban voters and upper classes, the BJP’s strategy is to work on a social engineering formula (‘Dalit Swaran’) that the think tank believes can change the equation in several seats across the state.
BJP is endeavouring to make inroads into the SC vote bank at a time when the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) losing its grip within the community and the Congress is in disarray both at the state and national level. Since Shah would be present in the meeting, with a view to mobilising Dalit voters, state BJP president Kamal Sharma is expected to shift his office to Jalandhar with senior party leaders overseeing the arrangements for the occasion.
More than 1,000 SC community leaders from across the state would take part in the meeting which will be chaired by SC morcha national chief Dushyant Gautam.