Once upon a time, the BJP was the party with a difference. Today, it is the new kid on the block, AAP that has assumed that mantle. The difference in this context is in its seemingly implacable stand against corruption. So people naturally expected that this would be a driving force in its choice of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Certainly the choices promise to make the electoral battleground more exciting and more fraught for the bigger parties. But, a closer look at the choice and positioning of candidates would suggest that AAP is not really a party with all that much of a difference. It has quite cleverly gone in for the tried and tested caste and community calculations, something which it has criticised other parties for doing.
The prestigious Chandni Chowk seat in Delhi where the sitting MP is Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal will be contested by former journalist and AAP member Ashutosh. The constituency is largely Muslim and Bania and Ashutosh is a Bania. In Gurgaon, Yogendra Yadav of AAP will be pitted against another Yadav as of now. In Delhi West, Jarnail Singh of AAP will contest in a largely Sikh constituency. Again, AAP’s HS Phoolka will be contesting in Ludhiana on the strength of his battle for the Delhi Sikh riot victims in a constituency where he will face Union minister for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari.
So, it is clear that AAP has not made any clean break with the brand of politics practised today by other parties. The only difference is that the others make no bones about their caste and community calculations when deciding on which candidate to field and where. But, AAP clearly realises that it has not been in the game long enough to change the unwritten rules altogether. The Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and there is little time for experimentation, even if AAP wanted to undertake such a venture. However, it is now clear that it is likely to be a spoiler in all three-cornered contests in the constituencies where the party puts up candidates. It is clearly calculating that if it notches up even 30-40 seats, it could change the electoral game altogether. It could even emerge as a driving force for a third front. It has understood that corruption is a sore point with today’s electorate and it will play up its ‘sacrifice’ for the jan lokpal Bill as its trump card.
On the face of it, the people might think this a bold gamble. But AAP has covered all the bases in terms of caste and community. And even if the newbie loses to the heavyweights, its stature will still rise in the public eye. It is a win-win situation for AAP, even if it loses some seats.