Almost written off by everybody after the Lok Sabha polls, Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have surprised all political parties with a landslide victory in the Delhi assembly elections.
The underdogs, who made a comeback, have become the hot topic of discussion in political circles. With it, the question being asked is: Will the AAP create its political space in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai? And if it is about Mumbai, will the AAP and Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) be competing for the votes that have been going to the four established political parties here?
On the face of it, the comparison would look odd. The two parties have different ideologies, but strangely both the AAP and the MNS would most probably make the same pitch while seeking votes for 2017 civic polls: You gave a chance to others, now give it to us, we are different from the established parties.
They have quite a few similarities as well. Both the parties rely on one individual's appeal. It is Kejriwal for AAP, while MNS depends on Raj Thackeray. The AAP's USP is its anti-corruption stance, while the MNS says it wants to give justice to the sons of the soil. Both the parties attracted young voters in large numbers. Their supporters thought they would bring fresh ideas in politics to make their lives better. And both the parties suffered reverses in the Lok Sabha polls last year. The AAP drew a blank in Delhi, but managed to win four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. The MNS, on the other hand, fared badly with almost all its candidates losing their deposit.
What is different between the two parties is their reaction after facing defeat. After the LS elections, Kejriwal and his aides relooked at their strategies, identified the drawbacks and did solid groundwork by connecting with the voters. They also owned their mistakes and won the trust of the voters. The result: People voted them to power.
On the other hand, Thackeray and his MNS were not seen doing much to get popular support. The party's grass-roots organisation was not strengthened. No efforts were made to connect with the voters. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, the MNS barely raised the issues that were bothering the people.
The only exception was that of toll tax charged on vehicle, but it was not attractive enough. When suburban ticket rates were hiked manifold by the then railway minister Sadanand Gowda, there were angry reactions from commuters. The anger among the commuters was such that even the newly elected BJP MPs panicked and rushed to the railway minister to get the hike scrapped. The MNS, however, was not seen taking any stand.
In fact, just like Kejriwal, who gave up his 'dharna' politics to show his seriousness to fight for the people of Delhi, Raj could have put the sons of the soil issue on the back-burner and come up with a forward-looking agenda. It didn't happen. He came up with a blueprint for progress after the Assembly poll campaign started. By then, the voters had already made up their mind. Result: The tally of the MNS reduced to 1 from 13 in the state assembly. The party that had won six assembly seats in Mumbai could not retain a single constituency.
If reports are to be believed, the AAP is serious about contesting the 2017 Mumbai civic polls. These polls will be significant for the ruling BJP, the sulking ally Shiv Sena and the MNS. After the rout in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, Raj will have to fight to retain his support base in Mumbai. Else, his party will further lose relevance. This time, however, he will also face competition in the form of the AAP.