The ruling party in Delhi and the primary Opposition in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is looking to expand its footprint to other parts of the country.
Earlier this week, AAP’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal announced that the party intends to fight the Assembly polls in Uttarakhand, make a push in Goa and contest local body elections in places like Mumbai and Ladakh apart from the MCD elections in Delhi.
Senior party leaders involved in chalking out the strategy said that in terms of identifying states to fight elections in, the party is following some markers.
The first, they said, is that the states that the party will seriously target are small states, with elections more than a year away in 2022. “It is not like an experiment to fight elections has not been made before. Punjab was successful but at other places, the response wasn’t great. This time the focus is on building an organisation where we see shoots first. The AAP already has a footprint in Goa, and in all of these states, their size allows us to try and build grassroots workers everywhere,” a senior leader said.
The second marker, the party leaders said, is that most of these states are places which have swayed between two parties and the AAP sees an opportunity to provide a third alternative. “That is why Punjab was successful, when in a first attempt, we became opposition, and were disappointed not to form the government. People wanted a third voice after the Akalis and the Congress. In Goa, our campaign is about how leaders of the BJP and the Congress are the same, and keep switching sides. In Uttarakhand, there is no credible opposition to the BJP,” a senior party leader said.
Apart from its strategy in these small states, the AAP is trying to step up its activities in the politically significant Uttar Pradesh, with party MP Sanjay Singh travelling through the state. “In Uttar Pradesh, we know putting up a credible challenge is very far away. But if you have national ambitions, you need to set your foot in Uttar Pradesh. In the elections there in 2022, the aim will only be to win a few seats if possible, to get ourselves into the Assembly. Singh is a good speaker too and is from near Firozabad and he has clearly got under the BJP government’s skin,” a leader said.
Two days ago, in an apparent reference to Singh, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said in the Assembly that a “namuna” from Delhi is raising questions on what the state government did to tackle Covid-19.
While the AAP’s decision to explore its national prospects has again raised questions about how the party will navigate the intricacies of evolving positions on issues such as caste, sources said that over the past two years, especially with its return to power in Delhi, it is clear that the AAP’s selling point is health and education.
“What will happen this time is that we will look for good state-level leaders to help lead campaigns to navigate through the intricacies of the state. Bhagwant Mann has become big in Punjab, and Sanjay Singh’s reputation is growing in UP. But what is clear from our ground reports is that people relate AAP and Kejriwal with hospitals and schools. That is why you are seeing the campaign to distribute oximeters throughout the country called Oxymitra,” a party source said.
In places where the party is unable to contest state elections because of lack of leadership or grassroots workers, it is looking at local body elections. The AAP is likely to fight local polls in Ladakh and Mumbai. “The focus is to steadily build till 2024, to be in a position to take a call and become a voice in Parliament. To grow, we cannot afford to have just one MP in Lok Sabha,” a senior AAP leader said.
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