Aam Aadmi Party national convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday evening declared “war” on mosquito-borne diseases and not his political rivals, for a change.
This was a break from AAP’s initial response to reports of dengue and chikungunya deaths in the Capital, for which it had blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led municipal corporations. Back after a throat surgery, Kejriwal appealed to other political parties to come together and fight the diseases, “which have spread to every other family in Delhi”.
AAP has grand plans outside Delhi. By the end of 2017, it wants to widen its political footprint to win at least two more states so it can make a serious bid for the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. It is focusing hard on trying to win Punjab and Goa and be seen as a serious alternative to the ruling BJP in Gujarat.
But right now, Delhi is all that the party has and all it can showcase to voters in other states. Experts say if the impression goes out that AAP is spending more time on blame-mongering than governance in Delhi, it could severely hurt the party’s prospects in other states. The course-correction is necessary.
The Pew Research Center survey on Indians’ preferences released on Monday shows Kejriwal’s ratings are down to 50% from 60% last year.
“AAP has been effective in areas like education and working for the poor but it needs to take ownership of the historic mandate it got in Delhi,” says Pradip Datta, professor of political science at Delhi University. “The discourse of AAP being a victim of the hostile Centre is a trap that it has to avoid if it wants to challenge the BJP in the future.”
AAP’s chief slogan in Delhi revolves around the theme that it has been working hard despite the Narendra Modi-led government’s attempts to create hurdles.
“The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) hasn’t done its job but Kejriwal’s message is clear: If Delhi is suffering, AAP cannot sit idle,” said communications in-charge Dilip Pandey.
Delhi voters elected a record 67 AAP MLAs to a 70-member assembly in February 2015. The victory was a rare cross-class alliance in which the rich, middle-class and poor voters supported AAP, says Prof Datta, and which may not happen again. But despite working on building a core vote base among the poor, AAP cannot afford to antagonise others if it wants a political future outside Delhi.