PM Modi’s popularity and electoral defeats forced AAP to go rural

The Delhi municipal elections and the UP assembly polls showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal among the urban voters is not diminishing.

analysis Updated: Jun 09, 2017 07:17 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PM Modi,AAP,Aam Aadmi Party
The Aam Aadmi Party performed poorly in the 2017 assembly elections.(PTI File Photo)

Repeated electoral failures of the AAP have forced a paradigm shift in the organisation that once targeted only the urban working classes; to try and build a rural base simultaneously by taking up the farmer’s cause, party leaders say.

The party’s support base in Punjab, where it won nearly 24% votes in the assembly polls, is largely rural. At the party’s recently concluded annual meeting of the national executive, it decided to launch a farmers’ agitation from June 10. On Friday, four party leaders will travel to Mandsaur in MP where a farmers’ agitation is raging.

The Delhi municipal elections and the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls both showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal among the urban voters is not diminishing, a senior leader admitted. Targeting Modi and the BJP over social media just wasn’t enough, the party discovered when it lost the municipal polls in its own backyard. “Our volunteers were completely dismayed by the UP results and the effects showed in the Delhi MCD polls,” he added.

At least three senior AAP leaders said the party had never prepared itself or its volunteers for defeat in Punjab. “We had only thought of winning and forming a government in Punjab. As a result, even when we went from zero to 22 seats in the assembly and became the principal opposition, we could not celebrate,” a senior leader said.

“For the future, we will teach our volunteers that polls should be fought with all our strength but there will be wins and losses,” his colleague said.

Experts say the change could be an opportunity for the AAP to get out of the social media political space and work on the ground to create a more federal party that can be seen as a long-term player.

The AAP cannot think of itself as a serious political player outside of Delhi without a rural base, they add. “If it wants to become a party of significance beyond Delhi, it has to work on it. Their activists are still urban and so is the party’s language. AAP leaders need to be far more federal in their vision, if they are serious about the party’s future in politics,” said Prof Surinder Jodhka of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Last November, the AAP launched a 20-day programme in PM Narendra Modi’s Gujarat to target 10,000 villages and spread awareness about the party. It planned to go all out in this year’s assembly elections in the western state but its performance in the Punjab and Goa assembly polls halted the party’s bid. Though a final decision is pending, the party will not contest all 182 seats there and it could give the Himachal Pradesh a complete miss, sources said.

“During the course of organisation building in largely agrarian and rural states, we discovered people are upset with their governments,” said a senior leader associated with expanding the party’s reach.

(Views expressed are personal)

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 07:16 IST