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LS polls: Has AAP bitten more than it can chew?

Many have said that AAP have stirred the political imagination of India. But while the party has overwhelming support in northern states, its presence is minimal in states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2014 10:10 IST
Brajesh Kumar
Brajesh Kumar
Hindustan Times
Lok Sabha polls,Aam Aadmi Party,Arvind Kejriwal

By announcing it would go national and contest more than 350 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, has the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) bitten more than it can chew?

Currently it has everything going in its favour, to the extent that some political observers have said if anything has stirred the political imagination of the country it is AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal – on account of its impressive debut in the Delhi assembly elections.

People, disenchanted with corruption, nepotism and criminalisation in politics, thought AAP would be a breath of fresh air. Not surprisingly therefore, along with the aam aadmi, prominent personalities are jostling to join the party.

Read:AAP to contest more than 350 LS seats, to target 162 'corrupt' MPs

But then, political analysts say the euphoric response and growing membership are one thing and fighting Lok Sabha elections, which entails huge preparations down to the booth level, is entirely different.

"It’s a clear case of overreach," said Manoj Sinha, a political science professor at Delhi University.

"After the party did surprisingly well in the Delhi assembly elections, it assumed it could repeat its performance in other states. But Delhi isn’t India," he said.

According to Sinha, the party got ample time to work hard on each constituency during the Delhi assembly elections. In order to replicate that effort in the Lok Sabha polls it would require time and resources, both of which they lack.

Read:5 challenges before Kejriwal as AAP goes national with LS polls

Going by what senior AAP leader Yogendra Yadav has to say, the party is seized of the challenge it faces. In a presentation before the party’s national council held in the capital on January 31, he said AAP needed at least 800,000 volunteers for active campaigning in about 3,000 assembly constituencies of the 4,150 in the country.

He also conceded that while the party had overwhelming support in northern states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi, the response was negligible in states such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. In Jammu and Kashmir also, its presence is minimal.

The CNN IBN-Lokniti-CSDS opinion poll does not arouse much hope, either. It says AAP will not get more than 12 seats, half of which will come from Delhi.

Read:AAP shortlists 10 names for five LS seats in Delhi

Lokniti national convener Sandeep Shastri said the party’s 350-plus target was "a bit too much".

"They should have concentrated on fewer seats," he said.

The party’s problem has been compounded by lack of suitable candidates in a number of states. Sources in the party say it does not have credible candidates in Gujarat, Bihar, Maharashtra and the four southern states.

Another problem is the inability of the senior party leaders like Yadav and Kejriwal to campaign in all states, concentrating as they are on Delhi and the surrounding areas.

Read more:

AAP collects over Rs 7 crore in 50 days

10 prominent people who have joined Kejriwal's AAP

Now, aam aadmi queue up to contest Lok Sabha polls

"While people in the rural areas know the ‘jhaduwala party’, they haven’t seen its big leaders," AAP’s Bihar convener, Ajit Kumar Singh, told HT. "It would have helped had Kejriwal or Yadav held some rallies here," he said.

Lokniti’s Sandeep Shastri, however, does not rule out a larger impact of the party.

"The way the party has become popular in a short span of time I would not be surprised if it does better than expected."

First Published: Feb 04, 2014 00:22 IST