By Sushil Kutty
‘What a wonderful world’ must have been the feeling in the Aam Aadmi Party after it won the Jalandhar bye-election by a devastating margin, which has been the Aam Aadmi Party’s signature calling card election after election. ‘Landslide’ is AAP’s default position. Twice (thrice?) in a row in Delhi, then in Punjab, and now in the Jalandhar bye-election!
Any Doubting Thomas left can take a break. Aam Aadmi Party’s happiness overflows also because AAP’s bye-election triumph came on the same day AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha got engaged to actor Parineeti Chopra! And Chadha’s mum’s mom, his grandmother, hailed from Jalandhar!
AAP candidate Sushil Kumar Rinku won a landslide – by 58,691 votes, leaving the Congress, Akali Dal and BJP nominees sprawling in his dust. A year ago, AAP had the same count of one Lok Sabha MP in the form of Bhagwant Mann who quit to become Punjab Chief Minister.
Mann’s solitary interventions largely went unnoticed, his voice drowned in the sea of other parties’ choruses. Also, Bhagwant Mann was MP from Sangrur not Jalandhar. But, Sangrur or Jalandhar, doesn’t make a difference, AAP will have to continue to shout to be heard in this, the 17th Lok Sabha.
The only solace: AAP could emulate the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had risen from 2 MPs in the Lok Sabha to 303 MPs! So, the Aam Aadmi Party can dream, aspire; plan. The BJP-set precedent in itself is a shocking reminder of what could be. And to be alive and kicking in these interesting times is a bonus.
AAP had five MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha (Narendra Modi’s first term), which was trimmed to 1 MP in the 17th Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term. The road to a third Modi term will likely be strewn with mishaps and may not be as smooth for Modi and the BJP as the roads to the first and second terms were.
This is where AAP’s lone Lok Sabha representation signals hope for the party. It is so timely as to be labelled “prophetic”. How many haven’t noticed that minus the fact that AAP drew a big fat zero in the Karnataka assembly elections, other recent breaking news have favoured AAP, starting with the SC giving overriding powers to the Kejriwal government over the Centre in matters concerning administering Delhi.
Meanwhile, according to the BJP, extrapolating 2023 to 2024 amounts to cheating. The fact remains that BJP mascot Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not measure up. Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah together consigned the party to a trough less than a year short of Armageddon. Modi is feeling the heat, and how? The saffron party miscalculated and it now has to course correct.
On Sunday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took part in the ‘Hindu EktaYatra’ in Karimnagar, Telangana, as Hindutva slogans rent the air. Sarma spoke of putting an end to polygamy and ‘madrasa’. Glaringly absent were “Modi Signs” – Modi posters, Modi hoardings, Modi placards. Modi slogans. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s course correction is underway and if the AAP hasn’t yet taken notice, it should.
With five state elections still left on the 2023 assembly line, AAP has five chances to snap at the BJP’s ankles: Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram – all territories for AAP to make a break for. Jalandhar MP Sushil Kumar Rinku can help by raising issues that hurt the common man.
Being in the rarity of “one alone”, the voter will take notice and hear him. That AAP is taking the Jalandhar bye-election victory as a “new beginning” helps. In the last round, Bhagwant Mann’s Sangrur constituency was lost to the Congress. Now, the AAP will have to figure out where it stands, and with which other parties?
Whether to go it alone or in alliance is the big question. The results of the five leftover assembly elections will give an idea but the decision cannot be left until the end of the year 2023. Apart from Punjab and Delhi, the AAP cannot be a lone wolf in any other state. The Jalandhar bye-election victory is a ray of hope for the Aam Aadmi Party. Chances are the AAP MP tally will substantially rise in the 18th Lok Sabha.
But before the year 2023 is out, Arvind Kejriwal will have to settle on a “PM face” of the Opposition. Otherwise, the decision will be taken independent of him. It is unlikely his own “face” will cut ice. A couple of more Congress wins in the remaining 2023 assembly elections, and Rahul Gandhi will be the overwhelming favourite. And then, it won’t be “what a wonderful world” for the aam aadmi who has always wanted to be Prime Minister. (IPA Service)