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BJP struggling to walk caste-religion tightrope

Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 04, 2013
First Published: 01:08 IST(4/10/2013) | Last Updated: 01:56 IST(4/10/2013)

In elections, caste and religious equations are crucial factors in deciding candidates for any constituency. Delhi is no different.

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And maintaining this fine balance between caste,  religion and popularity is proving to be difficult for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Delhi unit while preparing its list of candidates.

The demography of the city has undergone a major transformation in five years and party insiders say that on a number of seats, the dominance of one community has declined and of another has surged.

The party has carried out an internal survey which too has pointed out that it will have to rework its criteria of selecting candidates and consider those who can secure votes of dominant communities in their respective constituencies.

Another interesting tidbit the survey has thrown up is that the name of Madan Lal Khurana still counts in Delhi. The survey has indicated that the party’s vote share may see a jump of 2-5% if it gives a ticket to someone from his family. A dominant Punjabi leader, Khurana was the first chief minister of the reconstituted Delhi assembly in 1993.

With the demographic change in the city, different communities have upped the ante for bagging seats. According to sources close to the party leadership, there were about 26% Punjabi voters in Shakur Basti in 2008 but their percentage has increased to 33% now. The Punjabis in the party have already staked their claim on this seat and the party too is giving it a serious thought.

Shalimar Bagh too has 25% Punjabi voters in comparison to 20% in 2008. In Vikaspuri, where a Jat candidate was fielded in 2003, the percentage of Purvanchali-Brahmin voters has gone up.

While the Punjabi Khatri community has always been the BJP’s core constituency along with Baniyas and Jats, not too many Punjabis figured in its list of candidates in the 2008 polls. While the party had given tickets to four Punjabi candidates last time, including leader of the opposition VK Malhotra and former finance minister Jagdish Mukhi, insiders said more Punjabi candidates will have to be finalised this time.

Sources said Punjabi Khatri leaders have already started building up pressure on the party leadership for a greater share in seats this time. Sikhs and Purvanchali leaders have also categorically told the party’s senior leaders to ensure they are not neglected.

While Sikh leaders have already submitted a list of eight constituencies where they are a dominant force, Purvanchalis — who now form almost one-fifth of Delhi’s voters — claimed the BJP is not giving them proper representation.

“We have also submitted a list of constituencies — mainly in northeast and northwest areas — where the community has a huge presence. To form the government this time, the party will have to give more tickets to Purvanchali candidates,” a senior Purvanchali leader said.

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