Eyeing to expand its base in Punjab, the BJP will nominate Sikh candidates on more than half of the total seats it will contest in next month's assembly polls, its general secretary Tarun Chugh said on Saturday.
Speaking on the BJP-led alliance, which comprises the Punjab Lok Congress and the SAD (Sanyukt), he said it is expected that most of its candidates for the February 20 polls to the 117-member assembly will be from the Sikh community, especially farmers and OBCs. The BJP may also explore the option of announcing a chief ministerial face for the alliance, Mr Chugh said.
Sources said that the BJP is likely to contest on 65 out of the total 117 assembly seats in Punjab, while its allies the Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Lok Congress is expected to contest 38 seats and SAD (Sanyukt) 14.
The BJP is likely to field 33-35 Sikh candidates and the alliance as a whole may have more than 70 nominees from the community, they said.
Talking about the BJP's prospects in the elections, Mr Chugh, who hails from the state, said the party will "surprise many with its splendid performance in the polls".
On the question of seat sharing with allies, Mr Chugh did not divulge any details, but said, "The BJP will play the role of a senior partner in the alliance." "The BJP will field Sikh candidates on about half of the total seats it will contest and the alliance as a whole will have about 60 per cent Sikh candidates, mostly farmers and those from OBC (other backward class) and SC (schedule caste) communities," he told PTI.
The BJP has already announced its first list of 34 candidates which includes 13 farmers and nine from the SC community.
On whether the BJP or the alliance will project someone as the chief ministerial candidate, Mr Chugh said, "All options are open. We are open to ideas." Asked about the acceptability of the BJP in Punjab in aftermath of the farm laws protest, Mr Chugh said regional players have forged an alliance with the BJP and people mostly associated with Sikh religious bodies have been joining the party, so it shows the BJP's acceptability in the state.
"It is the BJP which has taken concrete steps to double farmers' income, giving Rs 6,000 per year to small and marginal farmers, and regularly raising support prices. So, for an agrarian state like Punjab no party can be more beneficial than the BJP," he said.
Describing the BJP as an "essentially nationalist" party, Mr Chugh said nationalism is at the core of its ideology, "therefore Punjab, which is known for its sacrifices for the sake of the nation, is an ideal place for it to expand its base and emerge as a force to reckon with".
In an apparent dig at Congress Punjab unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Mr Chugh said,"Punjab has suffered most due to Partition and till date, due to Pakistan. So, it will reject those friends of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who hail him as god of peace." Mr Chugh, a fully-trained RSS worker, has been associated with the BJP for the last three decades. He has contested the Punjab assembly elections twice and has been office-bearer in the BJP's national team since 2014.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)