As soon as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal ended his speech in the assembly on Friday making clear his intention to quit, Ankit Lal, party’s social media in-charge, tweeted: “AAP must be the first party where volunteers are celebrating at the speculation that the government can fall.”
The tweet reflected the mood inside India’s youngest political party. For the Capital’s residents the 49-day Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rule may have been marked by uncertainty, but for the barely 18-month-old party — if insiders are to be believed —it went all according to the script.
“In a way, the exit plan was discussed threadbare and was ready from the time AAP decided to form the government,” said a party source.
The signs were all there. Soon after Kejriwal took oath as the CM on December 28, the party, riding high on its stunning poll debut in the city, announced plans to go national and contest most of the 543 Lok Sabha seats.
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Across the cadres — from top party leaders such as Yogendra Yadav to state-level workers — as also among the sizable numbers of volunteers, it was clear that Kejriwal would lead them into the general elections as well.
After protesting for almost two years and drawing the nation’s attention to the need for a national anti-corruption watchdog the lokpal, when AAP was launched in October 2012, it made “fight against corruption” its main plank.
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It promised a strong jan lokpal for Delhi in its manifesto, and the anti-corruption bill has been in the news since — from the day Kejriwal was sworn in to the day the former tax official decided to step down.
“For us, it has always been about the jan lokpal bill, whether or not we remain in the government was secondary,” said a member of the party’s national executive.
When it goes into the polls, AAP will encash to the fullest Kejriwal’s decision to “sacrifice” his government over janlokpal and lodging of FIR against RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani and union minister Veerappa Moily among others over gas pricing.
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“Kejriwal can now go to people playing victim and also realise his – and the party’s -- national ambitions,” said a volunteer outside party headquarters at Hanuman Road in central Delhi, with supporters shouting: “Abhi toh Sheila haari hai, ab Modi ki baari hai (We have defeated Sheila, now its Modi’s turn).”
There is just no escaping the Lok Sabha calculation. “Kejriwal is the face of the party. Even if he had not resigned, he would have campaigned for the Lok Sabha polls,” said a party leader.
“Obviously, the resignation will only help the party. And, the jan lokpal will always be the crowd-puller.”
HT asks the following questions to understand the political impact of Kejriwal's decision to quit as Delhi CM.