As the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) raced to a landslide victory in Delhi on Tuesday, supporters of AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal started rejoicing in his home town, Siwani, and other parts of Haryana.
The impromptu celebrations, where the party workers danced to their signature poll song “Paanch saal Kejriwal”, clearly reflected a mood swing. More than 1,000 volunteers of the AAP from Haryana had been toiling in Delhi for over a month to ensure its return to power. Another 250 volunteers were involved in the “Call Delhi” campaign, making roughly 50,000 calls to electors in the national capital to motivate them to vote for the party.
The AAP cadre is buzzing again in Haryana, where things were looking decidedly rocky for the party after its disastrous debut last year. The party had come a cropper in the Lok Sabha elections in May 2014, with all its candidates losing their security deposits, after showing promise. Its vote share in the state, where two of its topmost leaders, Kejriwal and national spokesperson Yogendra Yadav, have their roots, was a minuscule 4%.
Then, it was missing in action from the assembly elections in the state five months later. The AAP, as one of its senior leaders put it at that time, opted out because it did not have the kind of structure, organisational set-up or the leadership required to win the elections.
“The party just disappeared from the public radar after the assembly elections in Haryana. But we will be back now as we have done better than expected in Delhi. Though we do not have any MLA in the state assembly, we will try and serve as a constructive opposition and raise issues of public importance,” according to AAP’s state unit convener Ashawant Gupta.
NO QUICK GAINS
The blowout victory in Delhi is sure to galvanise the party supporters, but no immediate political impact or gain is expected in Haryana, which surrounds the national capital on three sides. There is also no electoral contest in sight in the state for the next four years. And the party has a chance and time to put in place the required organisational set-up and a credible leadership, besides gaining traction among the masses.
What may work in its favour is that the first-time government of the BJP, which rode the ‘Modi wave’ to storm to power in the state in October last year, is still trying to get a grip on governance and administrative exigencies. Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his cabinet colleagues, who were all in Delhi to campaign for their party candidates, would take some time to recover from the numbing blow delivered by the AAP.
Social activist DR Chaudhary, a former Delhi University professor, is of the view that with the Congress in disarray, the AAP could emerge as an alternative in Haryana.
A lot would also depend on the ability of the Kejriwal government to deliver on its populist promises and fulfil soaring expectations of the people.
“The party was already working on restructuring the set-up in Haryana, but the exercise was put on hold due to the Delhi elections. To make an impact in Haryana, we will need to perform in Delhi. If we do not deliver, the voters will do to us what they have done to the BJP within a span of eight months,” Gupta said, sounding a word of caution.
At the same time, another AAP leader, Naveen Jaihind, has been quick to announce the plan to expand the party’s footprint in the state, launching a helpline number for joining the outfit and promising a party office in every village of the state, within hours of the Delhi result.
“We have won Delhi. Ab BJP ki khatara sarkar ke khilaaf AAP ke krantikari andolan chalayenge (the AAP will launch a revolutionary agitation against the BJP government),” declared the upbeat leader on Tuesday, accusing the BJP of winning the state elections by telling lies.
However, a retired university professor, who has closely watched the state politics in the past five decades, said the impact of the party’s resounding success would be marginal in Haryana, but should serve as a wake-up call for the established parties. “The state is ridden with caste politics and demographics are very different from that of Delhi,” he said, requesting anonymity.