By Sushil Kutty
With the Aam Aadmi Party, it’s not the Lucknowi ‘pehle aap, pehle aap’. For Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP—born out of the womb of an ‘andolan’—there is time still to conquer India and like the industrious ‘ant’, AAP slogs on, it’s ambitions intact in the future which could be as soon as March 10 later this year, when the results of the five-state assembly elections are declared and there will be winners and losers.
That does not mean AAP isn’t talking of victories in the making. AAP spokespersons have been told to anchor their beliefs in the possible, and politics has always been about the possible. Fortunately, for Aam Aadmi Party, its ambitious leader—CEO Delhi—Arvind Kejriwal, has announced he isn’t in the running for ‘CM Punjab’ or ‘CM Goa’, the two states where AAP claims it can pop the charts and top the poll results come March 10, 2022.
Kejriwal’s ambitions are clearly set on making a grand entry into the PMO and 7, Lok Kalyan Marg. People haven’t forgotten 2014 when Kejriwal contested against then BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Varanasi and lost by more than the shave of the whisker, a big fat whisker! Since then, Kejriwal has been caged in Delhi and he is not even CM of the national capital region, just Chief Minister Delhi.
But Kejriwal would rather be in Delhi than in Goa or Punjab. If certain poll pundits are to be believed, AAP stands more than a realistic chance of forming a government in Punjab and it could sneak in from behind in Goa. Punjab is where it is positively charged, with AAP asking the electorate who they want to be the AAP Chief Minister of Punjab!
AAP’s yellow-turbaned Bhagwant Mann is waiting in the wings to be named Punjab Chief Minister. In fact, Bhagwant has been Punjab Chief Minister-in-waiting for the longest time. But Kejriwal has now left it to the “people of Punjab”. Don’t be surprised if Kejriwal declares Raghav Chaddha Punjab Chief Minister. Kejriwal is known for having gone back on his word more times than keeps his word.
On one thing, however, Kejriwal and AAP will not go back on—freebies AAP promises in all poll-bound states. AAP has the freebie formula. “The party grabbed headlines as Kejriwal and his colleagues began holding political rallies, meetings and other events in poll-bound Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Goa, promising free education, free and better healthcare services, jobs, unemployment allowance to youth, Rs 1,000 per month to women, 24×7 free electricity et al.”
But AAP is going into these assembly elections with more than just freebies. AAP is the main opposition in Punjab and it hopes to form a government there. It believes it has more than an outside chance in Goa. In fact, AAP is the only party which has “footprints” outside its “home state” Delhi. That probably must be the reason why Arvind Kejriwal dumped the Trinamool Congress as an ally.
The TMC is spreading its wings outside West Bengal for the first time and Mamata Benrjee’s prime ministerial ambitions have come to the fore only now while Kejriwal’s has been there even before he became a full-time politician. AAP, say some political analysts, is going ahead with a plan in mind. For the last several years it has been testing waters by contesting civic polls in states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. And it has found success, too. In Uttar Pradesh particularly, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency is, and in Gujarat, which is Modi’s home state.
AAP doesn’t stand a chance in Uttar Pradesh. But it has been making inroads. Come to think of it, AAP has been an irritant to the Yogi Adityanath Government, unearthing what it calls “the corruption” of the Yogi Government. AAP Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh, has been at the forefront of AAP’s campaign against the Yogi and his regime. AAP won 83 seats in the 2021 UP panchayat elections.
AAP’s ambitions in Uttar Pradesh are clearly marked. And it is hoping to breach fault-lines presented to it by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttarakhand. Gujarat, which goes to polls in the second half of 2022, is another state where AAP has ambitions. To worst the BJP in Gujarat will be as big a win for AAP as taking Uttar Pradesh will be.
In fact, Kejriwal and his party have been coming to terms with the lay of the political landscape all these years since Kejriwal dumped Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption andolan. Kejriwal is, in fact, the epitome of dumping values to suit his ambitions. Once characterized as an “anarchist” because of the “fire in his eyes” Kejriwal was never the “reluctant politician.”
That said, Kejriwal has kept his hold on AAP with an understated ruthlessness. But these assembly elections could be different. If AAP fails to “capture” Punjab and Goa and ends up lowest in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, heads might roll and first of the rolling heads could be Arvind Kejriwal’s. At least, there will be an attempt made to cut him to size.
AAP is a fledgling compared to the Congress and a toddler in front of the Bharatiya Janata Party, but it has been changing spots as it moved towards centre-stage, not loathe to dump the hi-fi ideals that it once swore by. Arvind Kejriwal stopped being the moral compass soon after he became Delhi CM. The party has amended its constitution—now, more than one person from a family can contest elections on the party ticket. Yup, AAP’s ambitions have gone from the Moon, to Mars and beyond. (IPA Service)