As Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal continues to push the envelope with efforts to introduce the Aam Aadmi Party’s Jan Lokpal and Swaraj bills in the assembly, it is becoming increasingly apparent that his government is looking at an early demise. With the government propped up by tenuous support from the Congress to the AAP’s remaining 27 members in an assembly of 70, the two bills have begun to bring the reluctant allies to a head.
Not that it comes as any surprise to AAP members. Party MLAs, candidates and volunteers have for the past two months poured themselves into increasing the party’s footprint in the city, always aware that a fresh election will come sooner rather than later.
Constituted to oversee preparations for the Lok Sabha polls in Delhi, a two-member AAP committee comprising Pankaj Gupta and Sanjay Singh has been devoting itself also to the eventuality of fresh assembly elections.
Talking about the initiatives that the party is taking to mobilise support, a party source said, “On Wednesday and Thursday, around 70 jan sabhas were held across Delhi where the achievements of the AAP government in the last 30 or 40 days were discussed. We have also been taking up corruption in the ranks of the Congress and the BJP and their attempts to control the media, as well as the nexus between big corporate houses and politicians. These activities have boosted the confidence of volunteers and workers across the city.”
Sources said an effort has been made to introduce advertisements, such as pamphlets, banners and posters, to showcase the work the party has done in its two months in government. “Around 25,000 pamphlets have been printed and will be distributed in households. Posters and hoardings have been designed on the anti-Sikh riots and the AAP’s major achievements in Delhi,” a leader said.
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It is no coincidence that leaders over the past month have been talking about the AAP’s achievements compared with the performance of previous governments. “This normally happens during the end of a five-year tenure, but we know the Congress at any moment will bring us down. The AAP needs to be ready for a fresh election any time. We have been repeatedly reminded about this by the leadership. While the Lok Sabha elections are important, we cannot lose our stronghold of Delhi,” a party leader said.
While the party won 28 assembly seats and came a close second in several others, party members admitted its performance was lacklustre in rural, outer Delhi. “A lack of confidence in the AAP forming the government could be a possible reason. Moreover, in villages there is a tendency to take decisions collectively, as opposed to urban areas where individual decisions are made. We have laid great emphasis on the membership drives in areas such as Narela in outer Delhi. Membership has risen exponentially, even in rural zones,” a member said.
In line with its well publicised policy, in case a new election does take place, candidates will only be selected case by case. “The entire process will be redone. People will have to apply for candidature, and people can give their opinion on the nominations. After screening, the political affairs committee will take the final call. One of the additional factors we will evaluate is the candidate’s activities in a constituency over the past two months. Replacement of candidates will happen only in extreme cases. We are looking at shortcomings in campaigning. There were also instances where campaigning was excellent but the candidate did not win. We are analysing those situations,” a source said.
Another problem area the party has found from last time is booth management. “Polling station teams will start meeting in the next few days to discuss those outcomes and decide where more needs to be done,” a leader said.
“The Lok Sabha polls will act as a rehearsal for the assembly polls. Fresh elections in Delhi are inevitable, ” said Harish Awasthi, who was the AAP candidate from Rithala. “Booth level work has begun in Rithala. Leaders in charge of booths are being identified and given training. The membership drive here has helped mobilise a lot of support — thousands of residents have registered as members.”