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AAP Express next stop may only be Punjab 2017

Contrary to speculation, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is unlikely to contest the Bihar assembly election this year. The party instead has its sights set on Punjab which goes to polls in 2017 and plans to use the intervening years to consolidate its base in the Capital.
By Chetan Chauhan and Sanjib Baruah | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 12, 2015 08:19 AM IST

Contrary to speculation, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is unlikely to contest the Bihar assembly election this year. The party instead has its sights set on Punjab which goes to polls in 2017 and plans to use the intervening years to consolidate its base in the Capital.

Sources said party leader and Delhi’s CM-designate Arvind Kejriwal is not willing to repeat the mistake of Lok Sabha election when AAP contested in over 400 seats but bagged only four — all from Punjab. And while Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee see a prospective anti-BJP partner in AAP, Kejriwal, sources said, has no plans to forge such a partnership. AAP, however, welcomed support from the JD(U), Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party in the wake of its massive victory.

“I don’t think Bihar is our next political destination. We don’t have a party structure in place to contest assembly polls in a politically-complex state like Bihar,” a senior AAP functionary told HT. “Our next assembly poll would be in Punjab in 2017. Our party has started preparations for that.”

An internal assessment says AAP will do well in at least 33 of the 117 assembly constituencies in Punjab, the AAP worker added.

The party has asked its four MPs from the state to capitalize on what it believes is an anti-incumbency sentiment against the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government and infighting within the Congress’ state unit. The party won’t contest the upcoming local body polls in the state, focusing instead on the assembly election.

Since the LS poll debacle, Kejriwal concentrated solely on the Delhi assembly polls, holding over 120 public rallies and minutely supervising the execution of every election plan, including the selection of candidates. The party also conducted several surveys to ascertain the ‘winnability’ of candidates. A similar methodology will be adopted in Punjab, the party functionary said, terming reports of a nation-wide expansion as baseless.

“People forgive you only once and we learnt our lesson in the Lok Sabha polls. So we don’t want to take any more chances,” the AAP leader said.

While Bihar goes to polls in the latter part of this year, Assam, Kerala, West Bengal and Puducherry are slated for elections in 2016. In 2017, apart from Punjab, elections will be held in Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa.

AAP’s joint convener in Assam, Bhaben Handique, welcomed the party’s decision. “Although we are yet to discuss the move at the state level, personally I think it is a good decision. We need to set up a successful Delhi model before contesting polls in other states.”

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