No longer a regional party; next fight lies in Gujarat: AAP
NEW DELHI: On November 26, 2012, on the occasion of Constitution Day, engineer-turned-civil servant-turned-activist Arvind Kejriwal, along with other members of the then India Against Corruption (IAC), launched the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with the promise of providing an alternative mode of politics. Over nine years later, the Kejriwal-led AAP has turned out to be the fastest growing political party in India as the jhaadu swept the Punjab assembly elections, in the process becoming the first regional party to win a second state in India (after the Union Territory of Delhi).
Senior party leaders on Thursday said the next move for the AAP will be to put up a ‘good’ fight in the Gujarat elections scheduled in December this year, while also ensuring a win in the Delhi municipal elections, although it is unknown when the MCD polls will be held now that the central government plans to unify the three civic bodies (MCD, NDMC, SDMC) in the national capital.
Given that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the strongest in Gujarat, AAP is keeping its target realistic. Its plan for the Gujarat polls is to emerge as the primary opposition party to the incumbent BJP, and leave the Congress playing third fiddle.
“Today’s result has motivated our party cadre here in Gujarat. We will go all out in these nine months to become the main contender against the BJP in Gujarat. Congress has been rejected by the people here for the last 27 years. The victory in Punjab will also give a new hope to our supporters in the state,” said Gulab Singh, AAP’s Gujarat in-charge.
“Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann will be coming to Gujarat in the first week of April to celebrate AAP’s victory in Punjab. Until then, our party cadre will take out victory marches in every ward of Gujarat until March 16. We are confident of toppling the Congress,” he added.
Of the five states - Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur - that went to polls now, the AAP contested in four. In Punjab, the party on Thursday clinched a clear victory. In a one-line tweet, Kejriwal, while sharing a picture with AAP’s CM candidate Bhagwant Mann, described the party’s landslide victory in Punjab as an inquilab (revolution). “Many congratulations to the people of Punjab for this revolution,” he said.
In Goa, where the AAP contested for the second time, the party is likely to open its account in the state as it was leading on two seats as of 1:30 pm. “AAP wins two seats in Goa. Congratulations and best wishes to Capt Venzy and Er Cruz. It’s the beginning of honest politics in Goa,” Kejriwal tweeted.
However, in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the AAP contested for the first time, the performance of the party was “not as good as its expectations”, said AAP’s Delhi convener Gopal Rai. The party did not contest in Manipur.
On the party’s poor performance in these states, Delhi deputy chief minister and senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia said that it could be because the party failed to give as much attention to these states as it gave to Punjab. “We had fielded candidates in Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, but somewhere our focus was on Punjab. Gradually, people in these states will also start believing in our party,” he said.
Raghav Chadha, AAP’s Punjab co-incharge and MLA from Delhi’s Rajendra Nagar, said his party has now become a “national force”. “It is a big day for AAP as a party. Today, we are no longer a regional party. We have become a national party. I am certain that Kejriwal will lead the nation one day and by 2024, AAP will be a national party and a natural replacement of the Congress. Even the BJP took much more time to win two states than the AAP, which was founded in 2012,” he said.
Sisodia said the election result shows that the Kejriwal model of governance has now been established at a national level. “Kejriwal model includes focusing on education, healthcare, employment opportunities and women safety among others. Kejriwal is fulfilling the dream of freedom fighters BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. This is not a victory of the AAP but a win of the common man… Punjab has given a chance to Kejriwal’s model of governance. Today, his model of governance has been established at the national level,” he said.
AAP spokesperson Akshay Marathe said the party’s growth in national politics is not only the fastest, but also the most organic. “This is a historic moment for AAP and Indian democracy. AAP has become just the fourth (national) party (after the Congress, BJP and the Left) to form governments in more than one state. It is the newest national party on the block. Delhi was a proof of concept of the Kejriwal model which Punjab has accepted today. Wherever an organic demand for Delhi-like governance will arise, AAP will step up and deliver,” he said.
Barely a year since its formation, the AAP contested its first election in 2013 from Delhi. Dismissed as a political greenhorn back then, Kejriwal not only managed to oust 15-year rule of the Congress, but also swept former chief minister Late Sheila Dikshit out of her constituency. The party won 28 out of the 70 Assembly seats in Delhi and formed the government in alliance with the Congress. But, Kejriwal quit just 49 days into governance after an anti-corruption bill was blocked in the state assembly.
The party returned with a meteorite rise in the 2015 assembly elections by bagging 67 out of the total 70 seats. Later, in the 2020 Delhi assembly polls, it won 62 of the 70 seats. AAP’s 2020 victory was remarkable because no party in any major Indian state had managed to get re-elected with an above-50% vote share twice. The only exception was Congress’ back-to-back victories in Gujarat in 1980 and 1985.
However, AAP’s assembly victories are in sharp contrast to its performances in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when it won no parliamentary constituencies.