The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might take a decision on announcing Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial candidate at its parliamentary board meeting on Monday. But not once did party President Amit Shah mention her name at a public meeting this evening.
Party sources said Shah had no reason to talk about Bedi at the meeting of BJP’s Dalit supporters, more so as Bedi was not present at the event.
Shah told the gathering that it was significant of the BJP to hold its very first public rally for the Dalit samaj after the assembly elections in Delhi were notified earlier this week.
“This is our first rally, and the fact that it is being held among the Dalits is our message to the community that it is only BJP that can help you,” Shah said.
The BJP plans to gauge the impact on the middle classes of Delhi of Bedi joining BJP before taking a decision to declare her its official CM candidate.
In her interactions with the media, Bedi today maintained that she was willing to contest against AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi constituency, but put in a caveat that she wanted to contest the election to win. Today, Shazia Ilmi, a former AAP leader also joined BJP.
As for the party’s Dalit outreach, this was Shah’s second such address to a Dalit only meeting in the last two months. The earlier meeting in November had a poor turnout. The meeting today, held at the same venue, had a better turnout.
Dalits, who supported AAP in 2013, comprise a key vote bank in Delhi. They constitute a significant one fifth of the electorate of Delhi. The Delhi Assembly has 12 of the 70 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes. BJP won a mere two of these seats with nine going to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2013 assembly elections.
Referring to the Clean India campaign of the Prime Minister, Shah said that “after Mahatma Gandhi” Narendra Modi was the only big leader to have picked up a broom and brought pride to the noble profession of cleaning and sweeping.
The BJP President said the fight in Delhi was between BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with Congress not in the race. Party MP and its Dalit face Udit Raj had put together the event. Shah also declared that Udit Raj will be the party’s Dalit leader in Delhi.
Hundreds from the gathering trooped out when Udit Raj scolded supporters of a local Dalit leader. Many in the gathering said BJP might do well on reserved seats only if Dalit votes get divided between AAP and Congress. This, they said, was unlikely as Dalits still supported AAP. Shah said AAP was seen as the party of the poor. “But you tell me: is that true?” he asked.