‘Largest and toughest to clinch’: Aam Aadmi Party now sets eyes on Uttar Pradesh
Though the opposition is in disarray, AAP has to create its own political space and cultivate vote base. This will be a gigantic task.Updated: Oct 20, 2020, 21:38 IST
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is all set to take a plunge in Uttar Pradesh’s, which is already an overcrowded political arena, after testing turbulent waters in the northern state of Punjab after winning Delhi.
The assembly elections in the state are scheduled in early 2022 but AAP has already launched public campaigns on various burning issues in different parts of the state and had also made its presence felt in Hathras. However, they have a year’s time to form and galvanize teams in a state with 403 assembly constituencies.
Senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh said, “We have ambitious plans for Uttar Pradesh but the national leadership will make the announcement at the right time.” Singh has been spearheading the party’s connect with the masses and had earned the wrath of the chief minister Yogi Adityanath by getting a survey done to prove caste bias in the governance of the state. About a dozen of FIR’s have been lodged against him.
Singh says they had won Delhi within a year’s time after the formation of the party in 2012 and that people, by now, are familiar with its flag, symbol, issues and leadership, the fact remains that UP is not only the largest state but also the toughest to win.
The AAP started its public outreach programme via panchayats. Coming handy are about 10,000 oximeters provided to the party cadre to test oxygen levels of people during the pandemic.
The oximeters are creating curiosity as well as a local connect with the people. As of now, the party has reached 3,500 gram panchayats in 345 assembly constituencies, each having a 25-member committee, according to Vaibhav Maheshwari, state spokesperson of the party.
The BJP had swept the 2017 assembly polls independently winning 312 of the 403 seats, decimating Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party that had dominated the state’s political scene from 1993 to 2017.
Second, 302 political parties - including six national, two at the state level, five from other states and 289 registered but unrecognized - had contested the 2017 elections. Only eight parties had managed to open their account amid the BJP wave. The AAP will be thus another recognised party testing its fate in the complex state.
While SP leader Akhilesh Yadav has always welcomed parties contesting polls saying “more the merrier,” the BSP and the Congress have maintained a silence with their leaders, perhaps, waiting for the announcement. Akhilesh also shares camaraderie with Kejriwal.
The ruling BJP, upset with a telephonic survey done by the AAP on the caste leanings of the chief minister, was quick to retaliate. Secretary Chandra Mohan said, “They neither were able to control tomato prices nor Covid. Yet they have the cheek to indulge in theatrics in UP. They are free to dream but more than their UP entry, they should worry about Delhi which they are set to lose. Yes, but they should come to UP to learn governance from chief minister Yogi Adityanath ji.”
Political expert Badri Narayan said, “the AAP is a party in the making and may attract aspirational activists from the opposition parties.”
Tracing the electoral trajectory of new parties in the state, Narayan said, “It’s a long-drawn battle and requires consistent efforts as the first election is often contested to lose, second to damage others by cutting into their votes and third and fourth to defeat and finally win.”
UP’s assembly’s 403 seats are more than five times of Delhi’s (70), which are more urban in character. The state has a huge rural base and each region has distinct issues and complexities.
The AAP has been making sporadic noises in the past - this is the first time that it will contest the panchayat elections in this vast state. The party has about a year to prepare for the country’s most complex election in the largest state. Sanjay Singh confidently says, “One year is enough. Now we have a governance model to showcase.”
Although east UP may be oblivious to the work done by Kejriwal in Delhi - from mohalla clinics to schools - western UP districts, adjoining the country’s capital, are aware of his performance. He will be a face to reckon with but can he win elections?
Indeed, elections in UP have been driven either by a personality or caste and religion. The AAP has Kejriwal but its biggest challenge will be to find the right face in the state and correct the caste calculus.
Though the opposition is in disarray, AAP has to create its own political space and cultivate vote base. This will be a gigantic task.
Amongst the opposition parties that got decimated in 2017, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav still holds a decent amount of goodwill. Much would depend on how it gets converted into votes and how he holds his prime base vote of Yadavs and Muslims in the heat of the BJP’s aggressive Hindutva agenda. He has activated the party organisation, which for the past few months, has been holding demonstrations on unemployment, law and order, poor development work, et cetera.
However, he has yet to find a counter to BJP’s growing appeal of Hindutva among the masses.
Similarly, Mayawati has a core vote bank of Jatavs but her party has been invisible on the ground although her cadre, though disillusioned, can be activated anytime. After the AAP highlighted caste leanings of the chief minister, Mayawati deployed its veteran leader Satish Mishra once again to win back the disgruntled Brahmins.
Mishra has already held about 67 meetings with Brahmins, somewhat on the lines of his about 27,000-kilometre journey in 2007 organising the Dalit-Brahmin ‘bhoj’. It had paid dividends with Mayawati breaking the coalition jinx to become the chief minister without any crutches.
As for the Brahmins, they do crib about the neglect by the administration but find solace in the fact that the Ram temple in Ayodhya will be a reality. The BJP still remains their first choice.
Coming to the Congress, which of late has been in the forefront of all public movements, it has more leaders than workers. The organisation had weakened in the state decades before the party slumped at the central level.
Other national/state parties like RLD, CPI, CPM, NCP and other smaller ones have caste-based or regions of influence. Their outreach is not statewide.
On the other hand, the BJP has a robust organisation, energetic cadre and popular face of the Prime Minister besides the RSS network. Mahant Yogi Adityanath has emerged as a hardcore politician after becoming chief minister. He is skilled in the art of elections and is hardworking, now called the 24x7 chief minister. He not only wears saffron but believes in hardcore Hindutva.
A known turf
On a smaller scale, the AAP has contested elections in some other states, including Uttar Pradesh.
In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the popular face of the party, Arvind Kejriwal, had thrown down the gauntlet in Varanasi contesting against Narendra Modi, the then prime ministerial candidate of the BJP. Kejriwal saved his deposit, other opposition candidates had lost theirs. The party was then riding high as it had defeated Congress heavyweight chief minister Shiela Dixit in the Delhi polls.
The scenario, however, is different today.