Millennium Post

Winds of change in other states too

Believe it or not, the Aam Aadmi Party’s wave is crossing over to other states too. Just peep in Rajasthan or walk into Uttar Pradesh, you will hear people talking in hushed tones about AAP or Arvind Kejriwal. Before the Delhi election, a very few voters had known Kejriwal and his party. Kejriwal has indeed generated a wave. In the run up to general elections the wave may gather further momentum. With the Congress party already on a weak wicket, the APP may pose a challenge to the BJP and its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and undercut the votes of the saffron party as seen in Delhi State Assembly election.

The question that is being posed in political circles is: Can the AAP’s impact beat Modi effect in enough constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll? BJP supporters claim that the APP is a limited Delhi phenomenon, not scalable nationally. Since the general election is just five months away, some analysts say the AAP doesn’t have enough time to organise and spread. Yes, time is short. But the AAP is able to raise funds and volunteers in astonishingly numbers very quickly. Major political parties pay Rs 500-1000 per day to supposed volunteers, whereas the APP is flooded with unpaid volunteers. It raised Rs 20 crores for Delhi in two months from small donors, and became the only party to ever stop accepting election donations.

‘Crowd funding’ financed Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi. It can finance the expansion of AAP in all major cities. The party claims to have already organised itself in over 300 constituencies. It will have to co-ordinate with existing NGOs in these constituencies to quickly select and field suitable candidates. The JP and VP movements gathered momentum at an unprecedented speed. The AAP has potential to do so too. Neither time nor money was required for this spontaneous expression of widespread public anger. The AAP does not aim at forming the next Central government. It simply aims to win enough seats to become an important partner. India has 53 cities with over million population, fertile ground for the AAP. If it wins 20-40 seats that could leave the BJP well short of the 200 – seat target Modi is aiming for.

The AAP appeals to many of the same groups that Modi attracts –youngsters, the urban middle class and a wide range of people fed up with the entire spectrum of political framework. Modi offers a vision of change, but within the existing framework. The AAP offers radical change outside the existing framework. Before the Delhi elections, the AAP appeared to have no chance at the national level. But after thrilling Delhi performance, it has a definite chance of scaling up to the national level. So many incumbent voters who voted for Modi in the state elections could switch to more radical alternative, the AAP, in the general election.

After its success in Delhi, the AAP is setting its eyes on Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, among other states. The party says it plans to contest all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, though a final decision has been left to the national executive. The party led by Kejriwal will hold ‘jhadhu yatra’ across Gujarat to highlight what they call the Modi government’s corrupt practices ahead of 2014 general elections. Kejriwal’s supporter say there is no differences between the congress and the BJP. To hide his corruption, Modi has weakened the Lokayukta. We will appeal to the people to fight against this menace. Formed just a year ago, the AAP is now set to run a government in Delhi in unusual ways. Practicing citizen-centric politics, Kejriwal, now the chief minister, has very limited time to deliver change, he has promised. It may be just two-and-half-months before the model code of conduct comes into effect prior to general elections. If the new CM gets lost in government work, his party’s plans to open units in more   states to contest Lok Sabha election, many go topsy-turvy. If he chooses party work over state affairs, his government may end up annoying Delhi’s voters who have high expectations from him.

AAP cannot keep going back to voters for approval of decisions the government may have to take in hurry. The new CM cannot just allow himself to be led by anonymous crowd of admirers. The way he has got support of the congress, albeit from outside, his government is not expected to survive for five years. The Congress can break it at the time of its choosing. Sonia Gandhi’s party has already started changing the terms of support from ‘unconditional’ to ‘conditional’.

Within limited time at its disposal, the AAP government has to deliver – be it cheap electricity or drinking water without emptying the treasury. Dropping the red beacon and not staying in government bungalows may be easiest thing to do. But the real test will be to fight corruption well entrenched in the system. As the nation moves closer to general elections, leaders of powerful regional parties will begin to flex their muscles. Some, like DMK’s Karunanidhi and JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar, have begun to do that already. For the moment, however, attention is focused on Modi, young Rahul Gandhi and younger Kejriwal. Since his selection as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi has addressed more rallies than his rival Rahul Gandhi and attracted more crowds. But Modi’s campaign has begun to lose some of its sheen. One reason for this slide down is personal attacks on congress leaders and, his advertisement for himself, have been far too repetitive and hence far too predictable – something that runs counter to a sound communications strategy. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate needs to spell out his programmes and policies, not crib and rant about Congress party’s wrong doings time without number. IPA
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