For BJP, Punjab polls step towards expanding its footprints in the state

Keeping in mind that forming the government in Punjab may be difficult, the BJP is using this assembly election as a platform to expand its political presence across the state and become a force to reckon with. The party is now independently trying to make inroads in the state and using this election as a launch pad for its expansion in Punjab before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and the next assembly election in 2027.

A senior party leader said that the current assembly polls have provided an opportunity for the BJP to expand its organization and connect with people across the states. “Our political presence has increased from contesting 23 assembly seats in 2017 to 65 in 2022. We are also hoping that our seats and vote share will increase this time. This election has created a platform for the party across the state on which the organization will be strengthened for the next general election in 2024 and assembly polls in 2027,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is contesting the Punjab polls with new partners after its old ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), walked away from the alliance in 2020 over the now repealed three farm laws. The BJP has entered this assembly poll with two new partners — former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt).

As lead partner of the alliance, the BJP is for the first time contesting from 65 assembly constituencies, a huge jump from the 23 seats it contested in 2017. The BJP’s alliance partner, the Punjab Lok Congress is contesting on 37 seats and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) on 15. In the last Punjab assembly polls in 2017, the BJP had won only three out of the 23 seats it had contested.

At an election rally recently, union home minister Amit Shah had said, “It is the start and in the next five years we will bring the BJP’s Lotus (party symbol) to every household in Punjab.”

As part of its expansion plans, the BJP is trying to make inroads among the Sikhs which was largely taken care of by its former alliance partner, SAD till the alliace broke. The BJP has given a major share of tickets to Sikh candidates.

To dispel its anti-Sikh image, the BJP is highlighting the actions of the Narendra Modi government like declaring the martyrdom of Chaar Sahibzaade on December 26 as Veer Baal Diwas, opening of Kartarpur corridor, removing GST on Langar (food served in Gurudwaras), special arrangements that were made to bring back the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib from Afghanistan with full honours and others.

The BJP blames the SAD for creating a divide between the Sikhs and the party. “A false narrative has been created that the BJP and RSS are anti-Sikh and our alliance partner SAD directly or indirectly supported it,” a BJP leader said.

A senior party functionary said that the assembly poll has given an opportunity to test the waters and prepare an expansion plan to make inroads in the rural areas of the state.

Last month, union minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that he personally feels that the alliance with the SAD in Punjab had cost the BJP dearly.

“When we were in alliance, the BJP never contested more than 22-23 seats and the Akalis were in a dominant position. The BJP was not able to rise in the state. This time we formed an alliance with Captain Amarinder Singh, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and people are joining us. Now we are equal partners and it is a good opportunity for us to rise in Punjab. In the five-cornered contest, the BJP will put up a good show in Punjab,” Puri had said.

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