After four months of indecision, sparked off by successive losses in municipal polls in Delhi and assembly polls in Punjab and Goa, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Saturday finally confirmed that it would contest the upcoming assembly polls in Gujarat — albeit on selected seats. AAP’s Gujarat election-in-charge and Delhi cabinet minister Gopal Rai said that the decision to contest the polls had been taken at a meeting held on Friday between the AAP’s state and central office-bearers.
“AAP has decided, after a long discussion, that it will contest the Gujarat assembly polls. We have framed three criteria and will contest on seats which meet our criteria,” Rai said. He added that the party will start its campaign with a roadshow on September 17. The criteria included seats where it can find “competent candidates”, with no charges of corruption, criminal cases and with “upright character”, said party leaders. Moreover, the seats should have workers in-charge in each booth and party members will also have to raise money to fund their campaign, as per norms set by the Election Commission, Rai said. “Fund raised in a particular seat will be spent on campaigning in that constituency only,” he said.
Gujarat has been part of the party’s plan to expand its national footprint since its inception. AAP had launched an elaborate exercise in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state eight months ago to spread its reach and become the main challenger to the ruling BJP by contesting all the 182 seats.
In June, Rai submitted a constituency-wise report, by seeking inputs from party functionaries from the state, to AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal. Prime among the factors leading to the indecision, in spite of the party’s efforts in the state, was that taking on Modi had already proven politically to “backfire” on occasions while leading to a “perception” that AAP was “overreaching”.
“We will focus our energies on only those seats which we can win. For that, we have formed a state-level committee which will oversee election management works,” Rai said, adding it is possible the party may end up fielding candidates on all the 182 seats. He said AAP had appointed a team to oversee election preparedness with party member Kishor Desai as its convener.
Rai added the party wants to provide an alternative to the people of Gujarat who are “tired” of the over two-decade-long rule of the BJP and feel the Congress is not a strong opposition party. “We want to reach out to the people of Gujarat who understand that the BJP government has not been able to tackle their basic problems.”