By Sushil Kutty
The perception battle surrounding the Aam Aadmi Party and its assault on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll prospects in the state, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi cut his teeth in politics, may at the end of the day be nothing more than an expedition to snatch national party recognition from the Election Commission. Six percent vote share each in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will do the trick.
AAP’s Punjab showing couldn’t fetch the “people’s party” national party status, but it lent the much needed urgency to the quest going forward. Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh might round off 2022 with a national party reading in the Election Commission records.
Most Gujarat-based political analysts believe that despite the hype created by Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi-based “regional party” will not be able to score an upset in Gujarat, or in Himachal Pradesh, where it is an out and out Congress versus BJP battle.
The hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are “too Hindu” to fall for Kejriwal’s “I’m Hindu” shenanigans. Kejriwal’s attempts to paint himself as a bigger and stauncher Hindu than Narendra Modi did not set any of the rivers in Gujarat on fire. Too many posters of Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh in skullcaps didn’t do any good to the Hindu-isation of Kejriwal. Very few Gujarati believe he’s ‘Krishnavatar’.
The fall of the bridge on the Machchu in Morbi presented yet another chance for AAP to worm its way into the Gujarati heart. But the Gujarati does not believe Modi is to blame for the fall of the bridge. Oreva, the company which operated the bridge, yes, but not the BJP, and definitely not Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
AAP perhaps is the last party which got convinced that a frontal attack on Narendra Modi in the prime minister’s home-state never works. The Congress has been trying to cut Modi to size in Gujarat for 30 years and every time it failed because some or the Congress leader called Modi names and every time the Gujarati took it ”personal”.
The AAP thought that it could do a Congress on Modi and the average Gujarati voter would smile his indulgence and let it go, forgive Kejriwal and AAP. Kejriwal learned late that it doesn’t work like that. The BJP vote share in Gujarat will not be eroded by personal attacks centred on Modi.
The thinking in AAP now hovers on the belief that come whatever Gujarat will vote like Punjab. Chances, however, are slim. The polluted Delhi air is AAP’s Achilles heel. Both Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann have left their states to the ’parali’, and Delhi and Punjab, to the vagaries of the killer atmosphere, which is a warning to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Gujarat’s electorate has got wise to Kejriwal’s tricks of the trade. His thick skin notwithstanding, people have seen through him. The bad press that Kejriwal and Mann are getting in Delhi, Punjab and in neighbouring states has spoiled AAP’s chances. The Aam Aadmi Party leader talks too much and delivers too little.
Kejriwal’s rating has plummeted. His incompetency is not just the talk of the social media, but also that of the town in Delhi-NCR and Punjab. Calls for the sacking of the Delhi government are mounting in gas-chamber Delhi. Kejriwal has made fools of “we the people” one last time is the feeling, and the gist.
News trickling from AAP’s Ghaziabad headquarters is that of an AAP in retreat. Kejriwal is no superman. Everybody in Delhi is breathing death and, forget Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Kejriwal has to win the Delhi MCD elections if he wants to remain in the reckoning in the national capital. Under the circumstances, the best strategy is to cut losses and keep ambitions modest.
Which is why the target is 6 percent of vote share in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. AAP is still very young and can afford to wait. In the meantime attaining national party status is the natural next step. Punjab brought it close, Gujarat and Himachal will bring it closer still.
National party recognition brings with it special privileges. For one, it will be able to use its symbol to fight all elections; it will be able to open its party office in Delhi, it could demand two free sets of electoral rolls, even AAP candidates will be eligible for a free copy of electoral rolls during the Lok Sabha elections. Municipal elections in Delhi have been scheduled now for December 4 coinciding with Gujarat. It seems that the AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal will be forced to be home bound now by giving Gujarat task to the others. After all, AAP’s bread and butter comes from Delhi. (IPA Service)