Next on AAP’s charm list: Wooing Delhi’s Dalitshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/next-on-aaps-charm-list-delhis-dalits/

Next on AAP’s charm list: Wooing Delhi’s Dalits

Kejriwal attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

With online donations, AAP is looking to raise funds differently to take on BJP which is relying on 'brand Modi'. (Source: PTI photo)
With online donations, AAP is looking to raise funds differently to take on BJP which is relying on ‘brand Modi’. (Source: PTI photo)

To the right of the dais was a garlanded photograph of Dr B R Ambedkar. Sitting on a mat in the centre was a group of 20 people wearing Aam Aadmi Party topis. Former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was among them. Next to him was Cheena Ji Maharaj, the ceremonial head of Valmiki Sadan and “guru” for many.

Each member of the audience, sitting on plush green seats at the FICCI auditorium in Central Delhi and wearing AAP topis, cheered every slogan that went up. A year after the AAP claimed nine of 12 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes, it was clear that the party was courting Delhi’s Scheduled Castes on a day they inaugurated the party’s SC/ST wing.

Most speeches alluded to the inclusion of two Scheduled Caste ministers in the 49-day Arvind Kejriwal Cabinet and portrayed the AAP as the “only party that treated the community with respect”.

Manoj Kumar, MLA from Kondli and president of the newly formed frontal organisation, said, “The other parties always treat us as a votebank and never speak of our issues. Each one of you can go up to Arvind Kejriwal and speak to him. We couldn’t even get to the private secretaries of the leaders in the past. Only the AAP did what it promised. It had two ministers, Rakhi Birla and Girish Soni, from our community in the Cabinet.”

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Kejriwal himself began his speech with a tribute to Cheena Ji Maharaj, even suggesting that his opinion was taken considered while deciding on party’s candidates.

Kejriwal himself began his speech with a tribute to Cheena Ji Maharaj, even suggesting that his opinion was taken considered while deciding on party’s candidates.

“Cheena Ji Maharaj is like our guru. With his ashirwaad, we can take this organisation forward. Last year, there were 12 reserved seats, of which we won nine. This itself was history in the making. It was our duty to give back to the people, and out of seven ministers, two were from the community. When other parties refused or argued against it, we regularised workers. Only the AAP can give you respect,” he said.

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Kejriwal said, “They started the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and that is good. Everybody wants the surroundings to be clean. But it doesn’t happen if you pick up a broom for five minutes. If you don’t solve the problem of safai karamcharis, Delhi will never be clean. Why can’t we give them modern equipment to protect themselves? The jhadu has power. We listen to your demands. When Cheena Ji Maharaj suggests a candidate, we listen to him. It is our responsibility to go from house to house and spread AAP’s message.”

Among those who joined  the party on Wednesday was  Dr Kaushal Panwar, assistant professor of Sanskrit at Delhi University. Panwar’s story was featured in the television programme Satyamev Jayate on the episode on untouchability and caste discrimination. Choudhary Itwari Lal, a former associate of former Prime Minister, late V P Singh, also joined the party.