With an eye on Dalit votes, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has put up 70 candidates in Delhi which has a 25 lakh Dalit population and 12 reserved seats. A dozen seats, where the Dalits have a sizable population, can make or mar the prospects of other parties.
Delhi BSP chief Laxman Singh told IANS, "If only Dalits vote for the party we do not require anybody else but ours is the inclusive and secular party and that is why we have given tickets to each community including minorities and Brahmins."
The BSP has fielded N.D. Sharma, an MLA from the AAP, in the elections while its Ex-MLA Ram Singh Netaji switched sides and went to the AAP. The party is pitching its leaders to campaign in each constituency but it is not clear whether party chief Mayawati will be hitting the campaign trail in Delhi.
The Aam Aadmi Party won all the 12 reserved seats in Delhi in 2015. The BSP won two seats in 2008 and was second in 5 constituencies. In 2013, it could not win any seat but came second on 5 seats.
Aware of the strength of the Dalit votes, the AAP reached out to 6000 Dalit households even before the elections were announced in Delhi. An AAP insider said, "we have established a network with the people in these localities through Mohalla clinics, free electricity and schools which have proved beneficial to them. So they are not going anywhere."
BJP, Congress also eyeing the Dalit vote
The BJP is also targeting the Dalit voters and has reached out to them through various programmes. The party claims that the Narendra Modi government has done so much for this community that in the elections the party is hopeful that it will get its fair share of Dalit votes.
The Congress is also hopeful of getting Dalit votes. Spokesperson Jitendra Kochar said, "Dalits have seen the AAP for 5 years and now they know that Congress is the only party which thinks of them and they will vote for the party."
Before the emergence of the AAP, the Dalits had been voting for the Congress and the party used to win at least 8 to 9 of the 12 reserved seats, while the BJP had a lesser share. However, things have changed now and the Dalits are core voters of the AAP.