The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has big plans for the forthcoming national elections. Yogendra Yadav says it will contest at least 250 or 300 seats in some 15 to 20 states. Prashant Bhushan claims it could win 50 or even 60 of them.
On top of this, the party will also contest the Maharashtra and Haryana state elections. So the key question is: can AAP make a decisive impact on the national outcome?
Perhaps the biggest factor in its favour is that AAP is neither the Congress nor the BJP. In fact, in many ways it represents the opposite of the two established parties — it’s new, uncorrupt, transparent, young and, most important of all, very ordinary. That was a huge appeal in urban India. Prima facie it should appeal as much to the rest of the country.
After all, our rural brethren must be as disillusioned with traditional politics and politicians as their urban counterparts. I’d be very surprised if that were not so.
Now, add to this the speed with which AAP is implementing its manifesto promises in Delhi and you arrive at the image of a party that is determined to perform. This has to be another winning quality. Three months down the road, when voting starts, it could convince many outside Delhi to give AAP a chance.
Unfortunately, AAP’s disadvantages are equally undeniable if not actually daunting. For a start, it’s only a one-year-old party and lacks financial resources, manpower and simple infrastructure.
Can it put it all together in just 12 weeks? It’s hard to say with confidence that it can but then similar doubts applied in Delhi where, undeniably, it did.
However, a second challenge could be harder for AAP to resolve. Opinion polls at the time of the Delhi elections suggested that many AAP voters would opt for Narendra Modi at the national elections. Now, with AAP itself contesting, will they still choose Modi or stay loyal to AAP? At this stage it’s hard to say. A lot depends on AAP’s candidates and campaign. Possibly even more on the BJP’s campaign and the way Modi handles his candidacy. After all, this could be Modi’s election to lose!
I suspect if AAP is to achieve its presumed potential Arvind Kejriwal will have to reconsider and contest for the Lok Sabha. He’s not just the face and personality of the party but also the reason why people are willing to repose faith in AAP. Without him, it could be drained of much of its raison d’être.
Throwing caution aside, I’m tempted to agree with Swaminathan Aiyar’s argument that AAP will have a telling impact on the forthcoming elections. Of India’s 100-odd urban seats, AAP could conceivably win 30 or 40. If that happens it might not only deprive the Congress and the BJP of the opportunity to form a government but make AAP one of the biggest constituents of a possible third front. Indeed, if the BJP under Modi fails to cross 220 it’s even possible that the Congress and many regional parties — for example JD(U), BJD, SP, BSP, RJD — could push Kejriwal to take the top job to keep Modi out.
I’m not sure if that will actually happen. Very possibly not. Kejriwal as PM seems a bit of a dream! But I do sense that AAP is gaining momentum.
Finally, is that good or bad for India? Who can answer that with any certainty. For now let it remain another question for another day.
Views expressed by the author are personal