Millennium Post

He’s the new blue-eyed boy

The Aam Aadmi Party, the new blue-eyed boy of the public, has decided to try its luck by contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to expand its base. Living in clouds after the unprecedented victory in the Delhi Assembly polls last month, the AAP wants to encash its success by going national. Whether or not the AAP’s new broom can sweep well, the party is riding the excitement of a new brand of politics which others like the BJP and the Congress are forced to follow. The public is in no mood to hear any criticism against the young party and is willing to give a longer honeymoon period. Is the AAP in a great hurry to prove itself? With hardly four months to go before the general elections, the AAP has identified 10 key states, where it hopes to make a difference. It plans to contest in 300 of the 542 seats. Most of these are urban as AAP is seen as an urban phenomenon. There are some who wonder whether the AAP is doing the right thing while it does not even have time to think of a national vision.

There is no doubt the AAP is not able to cope with its new status and put its act together. There is so much confusion with leaders of the AAP talking in different voices on some issues. For instance, Yogendra Yadav talks of seeking more quotas for lower castes and women.  Another AAP leader Prashant Bhushan wants a referendum on whether the army should be withdrawn from the militant affected Jammu and Kashmir. Is it a wise thing to go for such measures when the US is pulling out of Afghanistan and the militants might strike from across the border?  Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, who hails from Haryana, is dodgy about the Khap panchayats despite the Supreme Court ruling.

The party has no clarity on these sensitive issues.  The political activism of Kejriwal has so far been limited to anti-corruption, and the party has been a one-issue party but now it will have to address other national issues. So far he has been reluctant to speak out on any issue.  What is the AAP position on secularism, minorities, religion, governance issues and identity politics? Campaigning in a small state like Delhi is different from catering to the needs of the other states outside Delhi. AAP has an ad hoc agenda of populism like halving the electricity rates and free water addressing the middle classes and the aspirational classes. What is lacking is a national agenda to match the other parties. It has to spell out its vision on economic and foreign policies. The 30 odd committees, which are working on the manifesto, should provide a clear stand.

Secondly, some analysts express doubts about the ability of the AAP to replicate its Delhi performance. The party came to power on the strength of the Anna Hazare’s anti corruption movement, which caught the imagination of the people. Secondly, Kejriwal took on a chief minister who was fighting elections to get a fourth term. So the AAP emerged as an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP. But in the Lok Sabha polls, the regional parties have already emerged as the alternative to the Congress and the BJP and the AAP can only be spoiler. Even in Delhi it got only 29.5 per cent of the votes. The AAP has to compete with the two big national parties apart from the regional satraps who have complete hold on their electorate like Jayalalithaa (AIADMK), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal) and Naveen Patnaik (BJD). In UP, the fight is between the SP and the BSP.

In several states the national parties are riding piggyback on the regional parties. Can AAP overtake these parties and perform a miracle in just four months at the national level?

Thirdly, many believe the AAP could affect the results in urban parliamentary constituencies to undermine the ability of Modi, and the BJP. The Congress would like to shoot on the shoulders of the AAP to check the rise of Modi. Even if it could get 20 or 30 seats, Modi’s dream of becoming the Prime Minister would be difficult. It is a question mark whether the AAP could win seats or it will only cut into the BJP votes and remain a spoiler.

No doubt that the party has launched a new game of politics. It has shown that a newly formed party could form the government in less than a year of its birth. It has taken the shortest time in registering its presence. Secondly, it has also proved that not much money is needed to fight elections. Thirdly the initial response from other states like Bangalore and Mumbai seems to be encouraging for the AAP, as some top-level professionals have joined the party giving an initial boost. There is a possibility of other leaders disappointed with the BJP, Congress and other parties switching to the AAP party, going by the present mood. Fourthly, the AAP is a match to the modern campaign methods adopted by Modi with its active campaign in the social media wooing the young and aspirational class. With all these advantages, the AAP hopes to get some 30 to 40 seats and compete with the regional satraps if there is a hung Parliament where a third front could emerge after the polls. The ambitious Kejriwal is eyeing 7, Race Course Road and is not content with just becoming the Delhi chief minister.

Many other smaller parties also contest from other states for getting some vote share to acquire the national party status. AAP is also doing the same thing. Only time will tell whether the AAP will click nationally or not.

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