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AAP 2.0: A rookie's journey from dharnas to development politics

The Aam Aadmi Party has quietly re-packaged itself, driving an appeal-all election agenda, building a proper organisation, bringing in new faces and running a poll campaign that is less bitter.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2015 14:06 IST
Darpan Singh
Darpan Singh
Hindustan Times
Delhi elections,Delhi assembly polls,Arvind Kejriwal

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has quietly re-packaged itself, driving an appeal-all election agenda, building a proper organisation, bringing in new faces and running a campaign that is less bitter.

While AAP’s core principles remain the same, in many ways it’s not the same party that made a stunning electoral debut in the 2013 assembly elections.

The party is projecting its ‘governance potentials’ to show it is prepared to stay the course. By coming out with policy blueprints, it is fighting its image of an anti-corruption grouping of street fighters.

Only Jan Lokpal will not do

AAP understood the imagery of honesty worked in 2013 because of the scams during the 10 years of UPA government at the Centre, and a strong anti-incumbency wave against the 15-year Congress rule in Delhi. The party now wants to make doing business easy in Delhi and develop world-class infrastructure.

By fielding the likes of Adarsh Shastri, an ex-Apple executive, the party signals a subtle move to have a good blend of competent professionals with politically viable candidates to facilitate the shift of focus to Wi-Fi CCTV networks and colleges. “We had promised cheaper electricity and free water. This time we are promising much more and need experts for decisions and delivery,” said a senior AAP leader.

Organisational structure

Having quit Delhi and lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party was forced into building organisation. Now in Delhi, the party has 3,500 polling stations and 11,000 booth volunteers. At the top, the likes of Shazia Ilmi left while journalists Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan took over.

The party has dropped seven outgoing MLAs as it looked to field new faces. As many as 30 others who lost by big margins in 2013 have been dropped to make way for new people, including those from other parties. The party has formed 10 frontal outfits in recent months, foraying into ‘morcha politics’ to reach out to specific vote banks. Because of an expansion programme, AAP today has its presence in states and is sourcing about 15,000 volunteers to campaign in Delhi.

A mellowed Kejriwal

Aware of Modi’s popularity and how the AAP suffered when it ran into the BJP strongman during the Lok Sabha elections, Kejriwal has gone for a positive campaign, highlighting his own strengths. Even after Modi’s jibes at him during his speech at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday, Kejriwal has not been too harsh. “Even on FM radio, BJP is running propaganda, but we are responding positively,” said Raghav Chadha of AAP’s communication team.

Kejriwal himself is not doing or saying things that may get him media coverage but make him unpopular. Even on his party posters, images of his holding a broom, facing water canon have been replaced by those of a pleasantly smiling, reassuring leader, promising development. Unlike Modi, Kejriwal is holding small but many more meetings. Since December, he has held 50 and intends to do as many more.

Have things changed?

Talking to HT recently, Kejriwal confessed that things got terribly tough for him and the party after his resignation as Delhi chief minister. “But we are experiencing a treatment that we got in the run-up to the 2013 assembly elections. People are letting us in, offering us tea and snacks. These are the people who felt cheated because they loved us,” he said.

First Published: Jan 14, 2015 08:55 IST