NEW DELHI, India—In West Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struggling to get the support of the Sikh community for the coming Lok Sabha elections. Though Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is canvassing for the party, senior BJP leaders believe a Sikh face will boost its chances of winning the support of the community, and nullify the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) effect in the area. BJP is even contemplating bringing back former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Harsharan Singh Balli, who had joined Congress after he was denied a ticket for the assembly polls.
Talks are ongoing to bring him back. “At present, BJP doesn’t have a Sikh face of its own. The party was planning to field Navjot Singh Sidhu, but he refused to contest from West Delhi. To win the constituency, it is important to get the support of the community. If Balli comes back, it will benefit the party,” said a senior BJP leader. A four-time MLA from Hari Nagar, Balli still commands the vote of the community.
The Sikh-Punjabi community constitutes close to 23% of the total vote in the constituency. This time, BJP fears losing this crucial vote bank to AAP which has fielded a Sikh, Jarnail Singh. A former journalist, Jarnail shot to fame after he hurled a shoe at finance minister P Chidambaram for the inaction of Congress in the 1984 Sikh Pogroms.
Balli’s exit from the party just before the assembly elections clubbed with pro AAP wave had cost BJP dearly as it lost its strongholds, Hari Nagar, and Tilak Nagar . It won Janakpuri, which has a significant Sikh vote, by just 2,600 odd votes.
With Jarnail in fray, the Sikh-Punjabi vote is bound to split. BJP, which is banking on “pro-Modi wave,” hopes to maximize its chances by getting a sizable portion of this vote bank.
BJP has tried to solve the caste puzzle by fielding candidates from prominent communities. In West Delhi, it has given ticket to Parvesh Verma, a Jat, as the constituency has a sizable Jat population. Congress repeated its MP Mahabal Mishra to consolidate the Poorvanchali vote but he faces with anti-incumbency .
“BJP will get the Jat vote, which had gone to Congress last time as the party didn’t field any Jat candidate. This time, there is pro-Modi wave and BJP workers are happy with candidate selection. All we need is good percentage of the Sikh-Punjabi vote,” said a local BJP leader.