By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
New Delhi: The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has been making all-out efforts to gain the status of a national party by next month so that it would be the ninth political party in the country to be recognised. To this effect, the AAP is trying to ensure that it gains a minimum of six per cent vote share in the ongoing Gujarat Assembly elections, besides winning as many seats as possible. Gujarat elections are scheduled for the first week of December 2022.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia along with other AAP leaders were conducting aggressive campaigning in several parts of Gujarat. For the last six months, Delhi AAP leaders were making whirlwind tours in several parts of Gujarat. The Delhi CM and Deputy CM along with party MP, Raghav Chadha, who has been made state in charge of Gujarat Assembly polls, were camping in Gujarat for conducting roadshows, public meetings, and media briefings as well as undertaking publicity. To be a national party, the Election Commission demands a party be recognised in four states with a minimum of six per cent vote in each state. AAP is ruling Delhi and Punjab, while it got more than 6 per cent votes in Goa state in March 2022.
Political pandits speculate that securing a six per cent vote share may not be an uphill task. The party has been offering freebies to voters. The AAP is also focusing on development as the poll plank if the party is voted to power. They are also hoping to emerge on the scene at the expense of the Congress Party, whose campaign in Gujarat, so far, is lacklustre.
Contesting for all the seats in Gujarat, the AAP named an OBC leader Isudan Gadhvi from coastal Saurashtra as the chief ministerial candidate in the event of the party coming to power. Gadhvi, 40, who worked as a journalist with Doordarshan and ETV, joined the AAP last year. He will contest from Jam Khambaliya seat. He had just concluded a month-long Yatra of the state covering 67 assembly constituencies.
Even in Himachal Pradesh, where assembly polls were held last week on November 12, the AAP fielded its candidates for all 68 constituencies. The results will be announced along with Gujarat state on December 8. In Himachal, the fight is going to be very close between the ruling BJP and the Congress and the AAP’s broom is likely going to play the role of a spoiler.
Political analysts feel that Kejriwal’s poll strategy after focusing on smaller states such as Delhi, Punjab, Goa and Himachal Pradesh, has now been turned towards the Gujarat assembly elections 2022. AAP leaders believe that the party will secure a six per cent vote share in Gujarat easily. Although AAP did not pay much attention to Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, party men feel, gaining a six per cent vote share in Gujarat polls will help AAP in becoming a national party and thereby the party will reap the benefits in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It will also help AAP to become a formidable force.
To attain the status of the national party, AAP will have to either garner a six per cent vote share in Gujarat Assembly polls or the party will have to secure more than four seats in Lok Sabha polls or it will have to ensure a two per cent vote share in general elections or being the regional political outfit, the party will have to contest assembly elections in four states. AAP has already registered itself as a state regional party in Delhi, Punjab and Goa.
Taking a look at the past performances of the party, AAP won 28 seats out of a total of 70 in the 2013 Delhi assembly polls and later in 2015, it secured a landslide victory with 67 seats. In the 2020 assembly polls, the party got 62 seats. Whereas in Punjab assembly polls, AAP registered victory on 20 seats out of 112 seats in 2017. But in the 2022 Punjab assembly polls, the party won 92 seats and formed the government in the state.
In the Goa assembly polls this year in March, AAP contested on a big scale for the 40-member assembly but managed to get only 2 seats. After drawing a blank in the 2017 assembly elections, the AAP this year managed two seats but did not succeed in vastly expanding its vote share which is now at 6.8%.
In other words, the AAP seems confident of becoming a national party in December 2022 along with the Congress, the BJP, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India – Marxist, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Trinamul Congress and the National People’s party. Both Trinamul and NPP (founded by PA Sangma) are concentrated in the northeastern region of the country.
AAP was founded in November 2012, by Arvind Kejriwal( former bureaucrat) and his companions made rapid progress during the last 10 years while catching the attention of the common people in the country. It is said that political gains for AAP could be seen following the decline of the Congress party during the last 10 years in many states.
Another significant aspect of AAP growth could be seen in challenging the ruling BJP. Under the present BJP dominant system, most political parties have struggled to hold on to, let alone expand their political space. The AAP, a centrist populist party, has grown and matured under the Narendra Modi era into a party of emerging national prominence. Political analysts observe that AAP has done this by skilfully negotiating the opportunities and threats inherent in the BJP- dominant system. In the recent Punjab election, the AAP, while discrediting the ruling Congress, captured 92 of 117 seats. The BJP polled only 6 per cent votes in the key border state in comparison with AAP, which polled 42 per cent.
It is still too early to answer whether the AAP could emerge as a formidable force and threaten the BJP’s dominant system. If AAP could perform well in Gujarat, better than Congress, then there is every chance of AAP playing a bigger role in the opposition politics in the run-up to the coming Lok Sabha elections.